Here comes another crackdown
In addition to downsizing goaltending equipment and mandating more offensive-zone faceoffs, particularly on the power play, the NHL is emphasizing yet another obstruction-type crackdown this season.Surprise!
Well, no, not really. But the league's brass has seen the recent trend in goal scoring and would love to have things the way they were in 2005-06, the first year after the lockout: more goals, more penalties, more positive press about "free-flowing" hockey.
Being targeted this season are using your hands to impede players and pinning players up against the boards. "There won't be grappling," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle says.
Obstruction, in other words.
The crackdown has started already, in preseason, as there were 21 minor penalties called in the Senators-Rangers game on Saturday, something we're likely to see in the regular season's early going. That game had 19 power plays in it (the Lightning-Penguins game had 13), which is far higher than last season's average of about 8.5 per game.
Goal scoring went way down last season, specifically in the Western Conference, where games were in the 5.2 goals per game range over the last half of the season and trending downward. Seven of the top eight goal scoring teams in the league were in the East last season, but it was the West that had the stronger teams.
I think that's something that will lead more clubs to turn toward defensive hockey going forward. I'll have a post on East vs. West in the near future.