The 2016/17 NHL season got off to a
high-scoring start over its first couple of weeks, but has settled down
considerably since then. Although it may not seem like much, teams were scoring
an average of 3.05 goals per-game to start the campaign, which would have
ranked as the 39th-highest total out of 100 seasons if they had kept
it up. It also would have been the first time since 2005/06 that the clubs
would have averaged at least three goals per-game over an entire season. The
highest total recorded was 4.79 goals per-outing back in 1919/20 with the
lowest being 1.46 per-contest less than a decade later in 1928/29.
Of course, the style of the game has
changed over the years and is sometimes cyclical as we’ve seen high-scoring,
fire-wagon hockey in some eras and tight-checking systems in others. In
addition, the size of goaltending equipment has been altered several times over
the decades and the composite hockey stick was recently introduced. There were
several other theories to explain the high-scoring start of the current season
though. Some experts believed the number of rookies in the league was a factor
since there were 68 first-year players listed to open the season, which
represented 10.3 per cent of the league’s players.
These skilled newcomers are seen as being
young and fast with a habit of playing an offensive style of hockey. However, most
of them aren’t as experienced when it comes to playing in their own end. This
leads to mental lapses and physical mistakes which often results in more goals.
By mid-November, goals per game for each team had leveled out to 2.77, which
would rank just 61st in NHL history. Another reason for the quick
start could have been the World Cup of Hockey tournament which was played in
September just before the season faced off.
Players were for world-class hockey at an
earlier date than usual and many of them entered 2016/17 already in mid-season
form. While skaters were setting off the goal light on a regular basis, some of
the league’s top goalies struggled. Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings
suffered a long-term injury in his season opener while Montreal’s Carey Price
was sidelined for several games with illness and Frederick Anderson of Toronto
missed the much of the preseason and the World Cup with a shoulder problem.
Other netminders such as Brian Elliott of Calgary, Ben Bishop of Tampa, Tuukka Rask
of Boston and Martin Jones of San Jose all struggled to find their top form.
Goaltenders’ save percentage over the first two weeks of
the season stood at 90.3 per cent on average, which ranked 19th lowest out of
the 33 years the NHL has been recording the statistic. By mid-November, that
number had risen to 91.2, which would rank as sixth-best in history. Goals per team could have also
been up early on since power-play opportunities were 3.68 per-game per-team
early in the campaign and that number has fallen to 3.34, which is the 43rd-lowest
total out of the 53 years the stat has been kept.
Whatever the reasons were for the high-scoring
opening to the 2016/17 season, things quickly cooled down. Rookie scoring
suddenly tailed off with Winnipeg’s Patrick Laine being the only first-year
player among the top-32 scorers as of November 12th. The league’s
top goalies were back in fine form and everything else from power-play
opportunities and goals to penalty-killing and goals-against averages were more
or less back to average for the NHL, at least for the past decade. Therefore,
even with the influx of so many creative, high-scoring rookies this year, fans
shouldn’t really expect to see anything out of the ordinary.
Labels: Ian Palmer