Goals, Goals, Goals: Scoring Up This NHL Season
Nov 2, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) scores a power play goal on Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson (41) during the first period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
In an effort to draw in more fans to the game, the NHL has attempted to change rules in favor of increasing scoring across the league. Whether it’s reducing the size of goaltending equipment or the addition of a minor penalty for losing a challenge, new rules are geared to promote offense. The NHL is currently resting around the 15 games played mark for the season for each team. It may be a small sample size, but let’s take a look at how scoring is compared to the last few seasons.
Individually, player point totals are sky-high this season. The league’s leading scorer, David Pastrnak, has 30 points in his first 15 games, good for a two points per game average. Last year’s leading scorer, Nikita Kucherov, has 1.56 points per game. Two other players, Brad Marchand and Leon Draisaitl, have a higher average than last season’s highest point-getter.
A player maintaining over a point per game average is impressive in the NHL, so Pastrnak’s doubling of that metric is mind-boggling, even at 15 games played. At this point in the NHL season, there are 37 players who have played more than half of their teams’ games and maintain over a point per game average. In comparison, only 31 players achieved this in 2018, 24 players in 2017, and eight players in both 2016 and 2015. The league has seen a steady increase in scoring leaders throughout the past five years, almost increasing by five times the amount of players in the span of five years. That astronomical growth for player scoring totals to rise that much in such a short span of time suggests that each team could have a point-per-game player.
Scoring isn’t just up among star players, either. It has increased league-wide in the number of goals scored. Since the 2015 season, the average amount of goals per game has risen consistently, going up from 2.71 goals per game to 3.06 goals per game at this point in the season for teams. Each individual team is finding the back of the net more frequently and more consistently, and this season is continuing that trend.
What’s the cause of this influx of scoring? It’s impossible to pinpoint one particular cause and ignore the other possible factors. The league’s commitment to increasing offensive output with rule changes to equipment and how the game is played certainly has had an impact on scoring as a whole. Smaller goaltender pads and more offensive chances on power plays is going to result in more goals.
The youth movement that has swept across the league has also had an impact on the increase in goal production. Teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs are a prime example of this, but around the league, young players are being thrust into the lineup to increase scoring at the expense of defensive prowess. The trade-off is that you score more goals, but also allow more goals because of the lack of defensive awareness and discipline at staying out of the penalty box that a veteran may have.
Naturally, this is a broad assumption, but using the Maple Leafs as the example, you see that they have allowed the sixth-most goals this season whilst scoring the fourth-most goals. The emphasis is on outscoring the opposition and not preventing them from finding the back of the net. Other teams have incorporated youth and started to adopt this style of play, most notably the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks, sacrificing defense for more offense. It remains to be seen if a team with such a wide-open style of play will be able to propel itself into winning the Stanley Cup.