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Volume 25 No. 66
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NHL Players, Coaches Believe Scoring Spike To Start Season Due To More Slashing Penalties

Goal-scoring is up 12.4% after the first quarter of the NHL season, and many players and coaches "believe there’s a direct correlation between the slashing crackdown" and the increase in goals, according to Eric Duhatschek of THE ATHLETIC. Only once in the past 12 years have "more goals been scored through the first 318 games." That happened back in '05-06 when a "similar point of officiating emphasis -- this one designed to eliminate obstruction -- resulted in a significant increase in the number of power-play opportunities." What is interesting is that this year’s scoring uptick "wasn’t strictly restricted" to power plays. It has "occurred in all three areas of the game." Even strength goals (1,399) were up 10.9% year over year; power-play goals (431) were up 17.4%; and shorthanded goals (67) were up 24.1% (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/28).

WRITING ON THE WAL
L: ESPN.com's Greg Wyshynski noted evidence of this goal-scoring spike is "everywhere." This season, there have been 18 "instances of a team scoring at least seven goals in a game, which is the most in the first 366 games" since '10-11 (21). There are 23 teams "averaging better than 2.79 goals per game this season;" in '16-17, there "were just 13" by season's end. The "glut of slashing calls made a difference, not only in producing more power plays," but also in "scaring off defenders from slashing." While Oilers C Connor McDavid and Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews "rack up the points, they're merely the drum majors for the parade of speedy young players running the NHL these days." This season has "already had 25 players in their age-20 season or younger ... combine for 116 goals this season." In '12-13, only 27 such players "combined for 153 goals for the entire season." Wyshynski: "Will this goal-scoring boom prove to be a season-long trend?" That "depends on whether the NHL's officials continue to call the slashing penalties they've whistled early on, and/or whether defending players have changed their games in response to these calls." It also "depends on whether the number of power plays, and these historic conversion rates we're seeing, continue to climb" (ESPN.com, 11/28).