Goals. More goals. Continued. Yes. YES!
The offense is back in the NHL. And not in the sense that we claim every season when we marvel at high-scoring games in October only to watch teams adapt and goals per game drop in January. No, we’re over three quarters into the 2021-22 season and seeing the most prolific numbers in the NHL this century.
During the entire salary cap era, the peak of the offense had been 2005-06. It was then that ‘The New NHL’ emerged, bolstered by the filibuster crackdown, determined to kill off the Dead Puck era that preceded the 2004-05 lockdown. Never in NHL history have teams averaged more power play chances per game than in 2005-06. Goals galore ensued. The league averaged 6.20 points per game that season.
No campaign had approached that number…until 2021-22. According to hockey-reference.com, despite teams averaging less than half the power plays from 2005-06, we’re seeing an incredible 6.28 goals per game in the NHL this season – obviously boosted by the Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins scored nine and 11 goals respectively over the weekend.
What is the cause of the explosion? It’s chalked up to (a) the brutal crackdown of 2017, (b) the reduction in goalkeeping equipment from 2018 and (c) the tightening of cross-checks from this season. When I reported on the latter in early 2022, I learned that cross-check calls were up 65% year-over-year and the NHL’s Player Safety Department cut about 65% more cross-check games for review. Today, at the three-quarter mark, cross-check violations are still up more than 50% year-over-year.
So it’s understandable that we now have ideal conditions for smooth hockey and overscoring. Players can move east to west much better, less inhibited by enemy stickwork. Teams in 2021-22 are averaging the second-most shots on goal per game in more than 50 years.
This explains why the league’s star players are posting truly exciting individual scoring numbers. Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi is set to become the NHL’s first 100-point defenseman since 1991-92, while Colorado Avalanche’s Cale Makar would be too if he hadn’t missed. four games. Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews is scoring at a 66-goal rate. He’s missed five games but is on track to finish with 62 in 77 games. That would give him the highest individual goal tally since Alex Ovechkin scored 65 in 2007-08. Speaking of Ovechkin, he’s about to start his ninth 50-goal campaign, which would tie Mike Bossy for the most of all time.
And, speaking of ‘on the beat’… have you recently peaked in the goalscoring race? It’s littered with players following 100-point campaigns. If we factor in missed games and only consider players on track to actually hit 100 points, the following players are on the way to doing so:
If we included all players scoring at a 100-point pace who played at least 50 games, we would have 19 guys on this list. Still, as it stands, the NHL is on course to have 10 players who have effectively reached the century mark in 2021-22.
The last time this happened? The 1995-96 season, which produced 12 players with 100 points. No other season since has produced more than seven centenarian goalscorers. The record came in 1992-93, when 21 guys did it.
Whatever happens in the final stretch of the 2021-22 season, we can, for a change, appreciate the fact that the increased offense has been sustained all year in the NHL for a change. Keep the goals coming.