Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A new, higher-scoring NHL

Well, they do say you can't argue with results. Looking at the scores from last night's preseason games, I would be hard pressed to say the NHL's 'more goals' initiative this season isn't working.

In recent years, hockey games have averaged in the neighbourhood of just under 5.5 goals per game. Last night, game's averaged a whopping 8.17 goals. Granted that's a small, small sample size but, my, is that a considerable jump.

Through all 24 preseason games so far, that number is at 7.04, a level not seen since the early 1990s. NHL goal scoring reached its peak in 1981-82 at 8.03 goals per game.

Of course, much, if not all, of the increase in scoring is directly due to the increase in penalty calls — all part of yet another NHL crackdown on interference (or obstruction).

Reporter Bob Ford from the Philadelphia Inquirer addresses the penalty barrage in a piece from yesterday:

In Sunday night's exhibition game between Montreal and Atlanta, 37 penalties were called. Los Angeles and Anaheim had a 36-penalty game. These weren't unusual.

Through the first 16 exhibitions, there were a total of 306 power plays, an average of more than 19 per game. During the 2003-04 regular season, the average was 8.5.

"A whole year on the power play? This is what we're going to get?" Anaheim goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said to reporters.

Perhaps the better question is: Is that better than the alternative?


At 3:07 a.m., September 21, 2005, Anonymous David said...

Early in the preseason isn't the right time to look at numbers. Besides a small sample of games, you're looking at many non-NHL rosters. Comparing one preseason to another might be ok, but because of the way every preseason progresses in terms of roster moves, it's not even easy to compare those. Compareing this preseason to the last regular season is like comparing two different leagues. Not much of a point IMO.

As for the power plays, the same thing happened in 03-04. Special teams all the way.

At 8:52 a.m., September 21, 2005, Blogger Grampapinhead said...

Much of what you say is true, but we shouldnt' overlook the fact that the league decided to have shoot-outs at the end of the preseason games, regardless of the final score.

At 9:16 a.m., September 21, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The games won't all be this high scoring. After all, Kevin Weekes can't be EVERYONE'S starting goalie. :-)

At 10:40 a.m., September 21, 2005, Anonymous pete said...

I'm with David.

Yes, it's way too early to judge and I'm sure you'll acknowledge that, but to me, the real reason (even more than the penalties) is the non-NHL rosters.

The goalies in the Bruins/Leafs tilt last night were J.F. Racine and Tim Thomas. Ben Ondrus got PP time. John Pohl was on the PK!

At 2:37 p.m., September 21, 2005, Blogger James Mirtle said...


Almost all of the non-NHL players play in the low-scoring AHL anyways. You can't deny the fact that more than doubling the powerplays (in some cases) is what's most contributing to the scoring increase.

We will be seeing a lot of powerplay contests to start the season.

At 2:05 a.m., September 22, 2005, Blogger mike w said...

The question is whether coaches would allow players to commit chronic penalties into the regular season. I don't think so. It makes more sense to play loose on defence than let your opponent have endless powerplays.

I still think it's an adjustment and will take time. The thing I notice is that the chippier, more flagrant penalties like high sticking are less apparent because of the new rules. The irony might be that there's less penalities called in the long run since there's so little to do against your opponent except bodycheck or outplay him for the puck, anything outside that would be too obviously a penalty and not worth the risk.


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