Scoring jumps through first two months
General managers say they are pleased with the results
The nets aren’t bigger, the goaltenders aren’t smaller and yet scoring is up significantly around the NHL.
Through the first two months of the season, goals are up more than 12 percent from the same time a year ago, including a 14 percent increase on the power play and a 38 percent spike in short-handed goals.
“That’s what the league wanted,” San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc Edouard-Vlasic said. “The league has done everything in their power to make there more goals out there, and that’s exactly what’s going on.”
The uptick can be credited to a concerted crackdown on slashing by issuing more penalties and a league-wide move toward younger and more skilled players. The current pace of 6.01 goals per game would be the highest since 2005-06, when a series of rule changes were put in to open up the game and get more scoring to attract new fans.
“Teams try to go for it more,” said New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, whose goalsagainst average is 2.66, nearly 13 percent higher than it was at this point a year ago. “Most teams are trying to go for it, have this fast hockey, leave the zone quickly and it opens it up.”
Deputy NHL Commissioner Bill Daly said general managers are pleased with the current pace, which has lasted beyond the typical high-scoring October as defenses settle in for the season. Stricter enforcement of slashing was designed to reduce hand and wrist injuries, though it has had a positive effect on offense with defenders unable to whack at puck carriers’ sticks in an effort to stop them.
“I do think that has created certainly more room for our players to be offensive,” Daly said. “I think over time, clearly since we increased the standard for hooking and holding and interference (in 200506), slashing has become a way to defend and an effective way to defend, and I think this year it’s a less effective way to defend.”
Players have noticed, even if some are frustrated at the varying degrees of what rises to the level of a slashing penalty. Every referee is watching closely.
“The last five years, you could do so much more with your stick and probably now lots of players are afraid to use their sticks,” Los Angeles Kings forward Jussi Jokinen said. “I think everybody wants to see more goals, so scoring being up, I think it’s good.”
Everyone except maybe the goaltenders may think so, but it’s not like they’ve been terrible. Four goalies who have played at least 20 games have a save percentage of .930 or higher.
“The goaltenders, they haven’t been any better than they are right now and some of them are still getting lit up pretty good,” said Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who has the league’s leading goal-scorer in Alex Ovechkin.
LIGHTNING 5, AVALANCHE 2: In Tampa, Fla., Steven Stamkos had a goal and two assists, and the Tampa Bay Lightning became the first NHL team with 20 wins by defeating Colorado.
Stamkos, who entered with one goal and two assists over his previous eight games, got his 12th goal early in the first. He also assisted on Vladislav Namestnikov’s tie-breaking goal at 8:09 of the second and Alex Killorn’s third of the season 4:57 into the third.
BRUINS 6, COYOTES 1: In Boston, David Backes scored his first two goals of the season, powering the Bruins to the runaway win. The Bruins scored their first goal 15 seconds into the game.
PENGUINS 4, ISLANDERS 3: In Pittsburgh, Matt Hunwick scored 1:29 into overtime, lifting the Penguins to the win.
BLUES 3, STARS 0: In St. Louis, Jake Allen made 29 saves and Brayden Schenn continued his strong play, leading St. Louis to the victory.
PANTHERS 6, JETS 4: In Sunrise, Fla., Micheal Haley scored a tie-breaking goal midway through the third period, and Florida snapped a three-game skid.
FLAMES 3, CANADIENS 2 (OT): In Montreal, Sean Monahan scored his second goal of the game 1:14 into overtime, lifting the Flames past the Canadiens for a road win.
FLYERS 4, CANUCKS 1: In Vancouver, British Columbia, Jakub Voracek assisted on Philadelphia’s first three goals in a victory over Vancouver, giving the Flyers a three-game sweep through Western Canada. Before the trip, Philadelphia had been winless in 10 straight games.