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.