The Saturday Slate is a weekly discussion or platform where members of Win Column Sports provide their respective opinions and thoughts on an event that took place in the prior week. Additionally, there is also a running pool amongst the contributors based on our picks for Saturday’s match-ups. This week, the Win Column panel discusses the NHL action on December 8th.
If someone were to tell you they dislike high scoring hockey games, they’d be lying through their teeth. The 2018/2019 thus far has had plenty of games that have crushed the over, with some games being downright unbelievable. I mean, look at the Flames and Blue Jackets game from December 4th. Between the two teams, 15 goals were scored. It isn’t a rarity anymore to see game totals exceed 8 goals.
With that being said, you’d expect the average goals per game to be elevated, but oddly enough that isn’t the case. As of right now, the goals per game by team sit at 3.08. The 2017/2018 season finished with an average of 2.97 goals per game by team. There’s really no rhyme or reason behind the uptick in scoring aside from the evolution of hockey. However, one can argue that the minor changes to goaltenders equipment has had a role, but it’s highly unlikely. It will be interesting to see how the NHL evolves going forward, especially with any proposed changes that will have a direct correlation to offensive production.
Scoring is the lifeblood of hockey. Let’s get real - there aren’t many who look back fondly at the Minnesota Wild of the mid-00’s and their effective-yet-ruthlessly-boring style of trap hockey. It’s why this season has been a breath of fresh air for this hockey fan, with goals-per-game currently tied with 05/06 as the highest average of the past 23 years. Seven players are on pace for 50 goals, including names like Brayden Point, Jeff Skinner and David Pastrnak, none of whom have reached the mark before. It’s always difficult to give a compliment to the Calgary Flames, but give it where it’s due - their game last week against the Blue Jackets was one of the most entertaining games in years.
If the NHL is able to keep up the high-scoring pace, it stands a chance at major growth in the casual fan base. While expansion is great, the best product you can promote is one that’s consistently entertaining, and who doesn’t love goals?
Goals are on an uptick yes, but surprisingly not as much as one might expect. The goals-per-game average by team at the time of writing is currently 3.08, only up by .11 since last year where it sat at 2.97. While this is the highest that G/GM has been since 2005-2006, it’s not the big jump that some were expecting with the goaltending equipment change. I think the league is at a good point now; if the league can keep the average within the 2.80-3.00 range, I think that’s a good spot. I don’t want it to get back to the 3.15-3.25 average that there was in the ’80s. Personally, I don’t think that’s healthy for the game, there needs to be a balance.
I don’t think the league has to go to drastic measures discussed like making the net bigger; some have suggested making the net bigger by moving every dimension a post length out. I think we’re at the perfect pace right now and I hope it stays that way.
When it comes to hockey - or any sport for that matter - it always comes down to offence and defence. I love high scoring games just as much as the next person, but I surely appreciate tight-defensive hockey as well. The game of hockey has certainly made changes to promote more offence over the years with the changes to interference calls, goaltender equipment changes, and the removal of two-line pass rule in 2005. Although this can’t be the definite reasoning behind the increased goal scoring, it certainly can help in the grand scheme of things.
When looking into the top-10 goal scorers in the NHL this season, 8 of the 11 (2 players tied for 10th) are shooting 20.0% or higher. The highest is Brayden Point with a 26.0% shooting percentage, which is not only absolutely absurd but likely unsustainable. Regression will certainly take place and drive most of these numbers down. Of course, there will be players who maintain their shooting %, but the likelihood of seeing this many players scoring on 20% or more of their shots at the end of the season will be slim to none.
Everyone loves goals. Life goals. Squad goals. Hockey goals. They’re all the rage. Literally, the only people who hate goals are those who tend the goal. So far into the NHL season Brayden Point, Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine are tied with 21 goals, on pace for 57, 61 and 63 goals respectfully. No one has scored more than 63 goals since 2007-08 when Mr. Ovechkin himself scored 65. So, with this pace, can it be maintained?
Short answer, probably not. It’s much easier to score 21 goals in 27 games than it is to score 63 goals in 82 games. However, with reductions in goalie equipment coming into effect this year it is certainly understandable that players are taking advantage of the results. Looking back at last year, teams scored 2.97 goals per game, up to 3.08 goals per game this season. A six per cent improvement is certainly significant, especially since the space not covered by goalies did not increase by 6%. With an amount of the difference coming from randomness and a certain amount coming from small equipment, it’s not unreasonable that this pace will keep up the rest of the way. However, I’d expect the team goals per game to end up slightly improved, at 3.06. Let’s enjoy the goals while they last!
Goals, goals and more beautiful goals. I’m sure the other gentleman in this article will mention that scoring is not actually up by a substantial amount over last season but the eye test begs to differ.
Calgary recorded the eighth instance this season of a team erasing a deficit of three or more goals to win - and fourth in as many days. The @NHLFlames also achieved the feat on Nov. 1 against the Avalanche. #NHLStats #CGYvsCBJ pic.twitter.com/GjVWbfcZ0Q
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 5, 2020
In the Canadian Football League, the slogan is “no lead is safe”. In the NHL, until recently the slogan was the exact opposite: “a two-goal lead means beat the traffic”. During the dullest era of hockey known as “the trap years”, the NHL scoreboard would compete with a soccer scoreboard for which sport scored the most goals. That is not hyperbole, that is the sad truth. Yes, I know a 2-1 hockey game can be exciting and no, I do not want every game to be 9-6. What I want is for the average combined goals in a hockey game to top seven (7) for the first time since 1992. Then again I’m also one of those people that stands up to watch a hockey fight.
WinColumnSport’s Saturday Picks
|Flyers @ Sabres||Flyers||Sabres||Sabres||Sabres|
|Golden Knights @ Kings||Golden||Golden Knights||Golden Knights||Golden Knights|
|Penguins @ Senators||Penguins||Penguins||Penguins||Penguins|
|Avalanche @ Lightning||Lightning||Lightning||Lightning||Avalanche|
|Rangers @ Panthers||Panthers||Panthers||Panthers||Rangers|
|Capitals @ Blue Jackets||Capitals||Capitals||Capitals||Capitals|
|Maple Leafs @ Bruins||Maple Leafs||Maple Leafs||Bruins||Maple Leafs|
|Islanders @ Red Wings||Islanders||Red Wings||Islanders||Islanders|
|Sharks @ Coyotes||Coyotes||Sharks||Coyotes||Sharks|
|Predators @ Flames||Predators||Flames||Flames||Predators|
Records Thus Far:
- Ben: (54-42), Last Week: (6-6), Winning Percentage: (56%)
- Carl: (30-27), Last Week: (7-5), Winning Percentage (53%)
- Spencer: (45-51), Last Week: (6-6), Winning Percentage: (47%)
- Arik: (44-52), Last Week: (8-4), Winning Percentage: (46%)
NHL Week in Review:
- The NHL Saturday Slate: December 1
- The NHL Saturday Slate: November 24
- The NHL Saturday Slate: November 17