Nearly a month ago I looked into the league-wide scoring bump, and where that scoring was coming from. At that point (November 17), the league average for goals per game was at 5.99. Heading into last night’s action, it had slipped to 5.88. That’s still a big bump over last season’s 5.45 goals per game, but we are trending downward. Over the last month goals per game have been at 5.80.
Last time we checked in, about two-thirds of the scoring bump had come from power plays, mostly the result of an increase in power play opportunities, up to 7.02 power plays per game from last season’s average of 5.98. Over the past month power plays have fallen back to 5.94 per game. Players are adapting to how the game is being called and fewer penalties have resulted. I also think that we’re starting to see a little less obstruction getting called although this is impossible to measure without manually tracking each game.
I’d bet that we see roughly six power plays per game and that slowly over the season, fewer of the slashes get called. The game will still be cleaner, but with playoff races ramping up the nightly intensity of games a little more will fly. Scoring will drop appropriately.
I wonder if the reduction in penalties has something to do with how teams have been breaking up their loaded top lines. It makes sense that when there were more penalties being called coaches could load up top lines since there were less 5-on-5 minutes to be played, thus less chance for their lower lines to inflict damage. Now that there is more 5-on-5 time being played there is increased value in having star talent on multiple lines. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen a bunch of top lines broken up including explosive groups in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Edmonton, Florida and Dallas.
The fallout is going to be less scoring concentrated in these stars. The best of the best will still produce at elite levels, almost regardless of who they play with. There will be fewer goals where it’s clockwork the top three scorers on the team because these players are getting less power play chances, but also because these players won’t all be playing together for all of their shifts. That means weaker players are going to get in on the action. The Stars are a perfect example of this.
Over the past couple of games, the Dallas Stars have split up their trio of studs with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov each headlining a line:
#1 20.9% BENN,JAMIE – FAKSA,RADEK – PITLICK,TYLER
#2 16.5% JANMARK,MATTIAS – RADULOV,ALEXANDER – SPEZZA,JASON
#3 15.7% HANZAL,MARTIN – RITCHIE,BRETT – SMITH,GEMEL