Scor­ing jumps through first two months

Gen­eral man­agers say they are pleased with the re­sults

Albuquerque Journal - - SPORTS - BY STEPHEN WHYNO

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.

Thurs­day games

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.

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