You may have read recently that scoring in the NHL is down... again. After a resurgence last year under the new rules, the goals scored per game by both teams is down about .28 to this point in the season. Over a period of time that can mean a lot of goals.
You know what I say to that: Whoopdeedo!
I, for one, would not have even realized the down numbers if I had not read them. It's not affecting the enjoyment of the game like it used to. In other words, I don't think low scoring games are necessarily boring anymore.
There was a time when you had better than a 50/50 chance that a 2-1 affair, despite being close, was a snoozer. So what's the difference if the actual total goals scored is 5 or 6? 4 or 5? As long as the game is good, why does it matter how many pucks get behind the goaltender? The answer is -- it doesn't matter.
The elimination of the red line has been the biggest rule change, and that includes all the new penalties that have been called. It has simply allowed more free play through the defensive and neutral zones. It's opened up the game as they had hoped it would.
I know there were people out there that never thought that change would affect the game that much. I guarantee if they knew, it would have come sooner. As long as the flow is good, the score doesn't matter to me.
Actually, I would have been surprised if scoring did not come down this year. Teams have gotten used to the new rules and the rosters have been adjusted accordingly (Where are the thugs? Gone!).
Take the Hawks, for example. The penalty box door needed WD-40 halfway through last year and the results were not pretty. This year, the proper adjustments have been made and the Hawks are not parading to the box as much.
The key number is scoring chances. I don't need stats to tell me the chances are up from the pre-lockout era. That is what brings entertainment to the game. Every time Martin Havlat touches the puck, I know something special could happen. But that doesn't mean it HAS to result in a goal (I'd prefer it though!).
Continuing with this logic, if the scoring chances are decent and scores are not hitting big numbers, then that MUST mean the goaltending is pretty good. So what's wrong with that? A big save is just as good as a big goal in terms of entertainment.
Now, of course, some coaches have figured out how to use a "trapping" system after a year in the new rules, and they are calling fewer ticky-tack type penalties -- they're letting players finish checks, for example -- so maybe scoring was bound to come down for those reasons as well.
However, the gist of the new era in the NHL is there and I think it will stay. I love the game. Yeah, I could use a fight or two here or there, and the fact is they have not eliminated it so it's up to teams and individuals to bring that toughness within the guidelines of the new league.
Dropping the gloves hasn't changed, just the rosters with those types of players, but so what? Why can't two lightweights faceoff? I loved (he may not have) seeing Brent Seabrook going at it. And the fact of the matter is every team still has a guy that can be tough or drop 'em if need be.
The combination of speed, toughness, and skill still makes a complete player. That has and never will change. The rules may adjust to the times (please no bigger nets!), but the game is still the game. It's just a little bit better -- OK, a lot better -- than it was a couple years ago.
And so are the Hawks. Happy New Year.
Email pre- and post-game radio host Jesse Rogers at: firstname.lastname@example.org