ARACE

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a lot more fun call­ing play-by-play for the Dal­las Stars. The man is a world-class triath­lete.

He said, “When the first goal won ev­ery night, you could just get up and leave af­ter the first pe­riod. There were no lead changes — and lead changes are the lifeblood of sports. Now, the lead changes are un­bri­dled. If there’s no fight­ing and no hit­ting, then the norm has to be 8-6, right? I don’t mind that.”

The two most pro­lific of­fen­sive sea­sons in Blue Jack­ets his­tory were 2017-18 (236 goals) and 2016-17 (247 goals). Through 28 games this sea­son, they have scored 100 goals — which puts them on a pace for 293. Imag­ine if their power play were bet­ter.

Barns are burn­ing all over the league. The night the Jack­ets got beat 9-6? There were seven goals or more scored in six of the 10 games on the NHL sched­ule. Head­ing into Fri­day night’s games, games, seven goals or more (in­clud­ing shootout­de­cid­ing goals) have been scored in 183 of the 431 NHL games played this sea­son.

Based on those num­bers, if you go to Satur­day night’s Jack­ets-Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals game at Na­tion­wide Arena you The Blue Jack­ets’ Cam Atkin­son, right, cel­e­brates af­ter com­plet­ing a hat trick against the Cal­gary Flames on Tues­day. De­spite to­tal­ing six goals, the Jack­ets lost by three as the teams scored a com­bined 15 times in the game.

have a 42.5 per­cent chance of see­ing the teams com­bine for seven goals — and you are al­most as­sured of hear­ing at least three can­non blasts. Bet the over.

The av­er­age NHL team is av­er­ag­ing 3.1 goals and, if the pace is main­tained, it will be the most pro­lific goalscor­ing sea­son since the av­er­age was 3.14 in the 1995-96 sea­son.

“You’ve got to keep your foot on the gas,” Blue Jack­ets coach John Tor­torella said ear­lier this week.

There was a time when, if a Tor­torella team had a one- or two-goal lead, they grinded to main­tain it. Dump in one end, chip it out the other. Now, it’s push, push, push — and live with the mis­takes.

“The catch is, when you keep on push­ing and keep the foot on the gas, are the turnovers in the neu­tral zone,” Tor­torella said.

And scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties are cre­ated for your op­po­nent.

How did we get here? In the 1990s, coaches con­trolled the pace with traps and play­ers slowed things by hook­ing, hold­ing and slash­ing. The goal was get a lead, limit mis­takes and dou­ble-shift ev­ery Tom Wil­son on your roster. In­tim­i­date.

The league cracked down on ob­struc­tion fouls com­ing out of the 2004-05 lock­out. There fol­lowed a year when power plays reigned supreme. Coaches ad­justed by turn­ing ev­ery skater into a shot blocker. (Heya, Torts.)

“I came just af­ter all the power plays,” said Jack­ets cap­tain Nick Foligno, 31, whose rookie sea­son was in 2007-08 with the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors.

“I came in when ev­ery­one was block­ing shots,” he said. “I re­mem­ber talk­ing to Daniel Al­freds­son and he said af­ter the first lock­out, it saved his ca­reer. He prob­a­bly couldn’t have gone on much longer with all the

hook­ing and grab­bing; ev­ery game, he’d have hook marks all over him and he’d be cut ev­ery­where. He said it saved the game be­cause the skill level went through the roof.”

Al­freds­son re­tired in 2014 at age 41.

Last sea­son, the league again cracked down on ob­struc­tion — es­pe­cially slashes to the hands.

“I think what hap­pens now is ev­ery­one has to re­spect ev­ery­one else’s speed be­cause there’s not enough phys­i­cal­ity,” Foligno said. “You can’t hit any­more be­cause guys will just side­step you and away they go. And the guys that are re­ally good at it can time it. For the most part now, it’s the good sticks. Ev­ery­thing is sticks now.”

Reaugh’s leafy brain con­jured the best sum­ma­tion. He said there was a time when the puck was your en­emy — be­cause to have it was to in­vite pain. Now, the game is pred­i­cated on puck possession. It’s eas­ier to pos­sess be­cause it’s more dif­fi­cult for de­fend­ers to dis­pos­sess. And away they go.

With fewer ob­struc­tions, the mid­dle of the ice is open­ing up for play­ers who grew up hav­ing the puck on their sticks. They’re skilled, they’re fast and they don’t mind mak­ing mis­takes. They fig­ure they’ll just get the puck back and re­deem them­selves. And away they go.

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