Hate to be a Negative Nelly here, but it’s time someone pointed out a couple of disturbing trends that have emerged in the NHL this season.
First of all, goals per game are trending downward. Through Tuesday night, there had been 209 games played and in those games there had been 1,160 goals scored, not including the 12 goals that have been awarded to teams that have won in shootouts.
That puts goals-per-game at 5.55, which is well below the 5.76 last year and the 6.05 that were scored in 2005-06, the first year of the new NHL.
That, in itself, might not be too much to worry about, if not for a couple of other disturbing trends.
With just 29 overtime games this season (12 decided in overtime and 17 in shootouts), the league is on pace for just 171 extra-time games in 2007-08, which would be down a mind-boggling 110 from last season and the league’s lowest total in a full season since 1992-93.
With just 17 shootouts, the NHL is on pace for just 100 of those this season, compared to 164 last season and 145 in 2005-06.
What’s more, shutouts are way up this season. With four of them coming Tuesday night, the league is now on pace for 188 shutouts this season, 40 more than last season and 72 more than in 2005-06.
The league does not keep records on the most total shutouts, but only once in the past six seasons – when the league had 191 in the height of the dead-puck era in 2003-04 – have there been more shutouts than the league is on pace to post this season.
What does it all mean? Well, for one, it means less exciting games. The high number of shutouts and dearth of overtime games means that when a team gets a lead in a game, it tends to keep it.
All of which is great if you’re a coach and your team scores first, not so great if you’re a hockey fan who either has no rooting interest in the game or you’re cheering for the team that is behind.