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Finding Ways To Get More Scoring Chances

by Greg Millen / Toronto Maple Leafs
One of the many important stats that NHL coach’s record is” chances to score”. A good chance in their eyes does not necessarily even have to be a shot on goal.

Coaches will tell you that since the lockout, when the game opened up because of new rule changes, the chances to score have gradually declined.

To give you some examples, in the wide-open 80’s many nights the chances to score would be in the 18 to 20 plus range by each team. In the clutch and grab era before the lockout the chances often were around 8 to 12. Coming out of the lockout after the hockey operations department did such a terrific job tweaking the rules, the chances moved back up to around the 15 per team range. This season on many nights the chances are creeping back down to pre-lockout levels.

In my opinion, there are many reasons for this. For one, the coaches are just too darn good. They will adjust to any rule changes and implement defensive first systems to win. Some think taking out the red line for two line passes was a mistake. That will be discussed in a future blog.

Another reason that has caught my eye is the player’s ability to block shots in today’s NHL. Pucks are just not getting through to the net. Here are some numbers for you. Ten years ago, the top shot blocking team in the league blocked 14.5 shots per game. Five years ago, 15.3 shots per game. Last season 17.1 shots per game and this year so far the New York Rangers lead the way with 20.7 blocks per game. Obviously if shots can’t get through to the net, there are fewer chances to score.

There are a few reasons for the increase of blocked shots. NHL coaches are insisting that players get into the shooting lanes and if they don’t – they won’t play. Players are coached today to work from the crease out. So often we see a maze of players in front of the net from the hash marks in. Home base as some coaches call it.

Equipment has made terrific strides in the last ten years, which makes it safer for players to block shots. The latest innovation is a plastic skate boot protection that helps to prevent a player from breaking his foot. Defencemen started using them first and now you see most players on the ice wearing them.

Fans want to see chances to score and lots of them. It makes for better entertainment. How can we find ways of getting more pucks to the net? At the moment, I can’t seem to come up with a good solution. Perhaps as fans you have some ideas.

Feel free to follow me on twitter and give your suggestion.
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