The power of the power play
Where the NHL's scoring 'explosion' came from
Normally I'd leave the math portion of my analysis to our friend The Calculator, but the discussion in the comments section at Tom Benjamin's place got me thinking.
(Unlike some of my industry peers, I don't have an aversion to math. Still, I'm not going to be able to get anywhere near as in-depth as Tyler does.)
After making some adjustments for the number of penalties there have been this season, Tom Benjamin determines that goal scoring in the NHL increased from 5.14 goals per game in 2003-04 to 5.62 per game this season — just more than a nine-per-cent increase.
How much of that is due to a more 'wide-open' game? It's impossible to say, but what we can tell is how many more of the goals scored this season simply came from the power play, where the impact of the way obstruction is called is lessened (there's little neutral-zone play during a power play).
In 2003-04, there were a total of 6,318 goals scored in all NHL games. This season, that number was up 1,125 goals to 7,443 — a 17.8-per-cent increase.
In 2003-04, there were a total of 1,717 goals scored on the power play in all NHL games. This season, that number was up to 2,545. In all, the new NHL produced 828 more goals for teams with the man advantage — a 48.2-per-cent increase.
Power-play scoring as a percentage of scoring increase
So, we've got 1,125 'new' goals this season, 828 of those coming on the power play, which would make up 73.6 per cent of this season's total increase.
(Short-handed goal scoring increased from 244 goals to 318, a 74-goal difference and 30.3-per-cent increase. This number makes up 6.57 per cent of the total 'new' goals, meaning that increased scoring on special teams accounted for 80.2 per cent in total.)
In all, even-strength scoring increased from 4,357 to 4,580 — a mighty 223 goals or just 5.12 per cent.
No wonder Jaromir Jagr had 123 points this year.
It's also no wonder Gary Bettman wants to keep the number of penalties called per game high for the postseason — without the increased scoring generated on the power play, the notion of a radically transformed, higher-scoring (read: better) league goes up in smoke.
That's not to say I disagree with how the games are being called — for the most part, I've liked what I see. Still, it's important to know where these 'new' goals are — and aren't — coming from.