When play resumed in 2005 after the work stoppage, much was made of the increase in restraining fouls called. The NHL's reply to critics of the spate of power plays was that the numbers would go down as players acclimated themselves to the way the games were being called.
Looks like the League was right.
With the season set to pass the two-thirds mark on Saturday, the average number of power plays in a game has fallen to levels not seen in more than three decades. Entering the weekend, the 810 games played this season have had an average of 6.90 power plays -- the lowest figure since 1978-79, when the 17-team NHL averaged 6.77 power plays in its 680 games.
In 2000-01, when the NHL became the 30-team League it is today, the average number of power plays in a game was 9.18. That number dropped to 8.48 in 2003-04. With the crackdown on restraining fouls implemented in 2005, the average number of advantages soared to 11.70 per game in '05-06 -- an increase of more than three power plays per game from '03-04. However, that figure has dropped steadily since, falling to 9.70 the following season and decreasing in each of the following seasons before reaching 7.08 last season.
Nor are teams making the most of the opportunities they are getting. The power-play conversion percentage this season has dropped to 17.3 percent, the lowest since it was 16.5 percent in 2003-04.
Tapering down -- History shows that average number of power plays per game tends to decline as the season goes along, and this season is no different. The 159 games played in October saw an average of 7.9 power plays; that figure dropped to 7.5 for the games played in November, 6.9 in December, 5.9 for January's games and is down to 5.7 through the early stages of February.
There have already been 28 games this season in which one team did not have a power play, and in five of those, the opposing team received only one advantage.
Gagner retrospective -- One week after his historic eight-point performance, Edmonton's Sam Gagner has yet to cool off.
Gagner has four goals and six points in the three games that followed his historic performance, giving him 14 points in four games -- the most by an Oiler in any four-game stretch in 22 years (since Mark Messier in 1990).
But Gagner's big night and subsequent surge have come in much tougher offensive circumstances than Messier's. In fact, considering the circumstances surrounding his career night -- the player, his team, the opposition and the levels of offense in today's NHL -- you can make the case that Gagner's eight-point game was the most unexpected (if not the greatest) offensive night in NHL history.
Consider the following:
* NHL teams this season have combined for an average of less than 5.5 goals per game. With the exception of Bert Olmstead's eight-point performance for Montreal against Chicago in January 1954, all eight-point games (and Darryl Sittler's record-setting 10-point performance against Boston 35 years ago) came in a season that saw an average of at least 6.8 goals per game. Ten of the 13 eight-point games came from December 1977 to December 1988, a period in which teams combined for an average of at least seven goals per game.
* Gagner's team, the Edmonton Oilers, is 28th in the overall standings. Before Gagner, only Peter and Anton Stastny of the Quebec Nordiques, who had eight points in the same game against Washington 31 years ago, had their big nights while playing for a sub-.500 team -- and they did it against a team that finished behind them in the standings. Gagner had his eight-point game against a team that was among the NHL's best.
* Gagner has never had more than 16 goals or 47 points in his four full NHL seasons, and was just 5-17-22 in 43 games before his historic night. Only Philadelphia defenseman Tom Bladon (vs. last-place Cleveland in January 1977) had less of an offensive resume.
* Gagner was the first player to score eight points in a game in more than 23 years -- and only the second player to be involved on all of his team's goals while putting up eight points.
Add them all together, and you get a night the likes of which hasn't been seen in the NHL in a long time.
At last -- It took four months and 35 starts, but Martin Brodeur finally has his 117th NHL shutout. Brodeur got his first of the season Tuesday night when he led New Jersey to a 1-0 win against the Rangers in New York -- the 35 games (and four months) were the most he's ever gone in a season without putting up a shutout.
It was only the second shutout for Brodeur in 46 career starts at Madison Square Garden -- both have been 1-0 games. The other one came in January 2010, when he faced a career-high 51 shots before winning in a shootout.
Revenge is sweet -- There have now been 25 games in the six-plus seasons of the shootout that have gone to the tiebreaker without a goal through 65 minutes -- No. 25 came Tuesday night when the New York Islanders beat Philadelphia 1-0.
Though it was the first time the Isles had gone to a shootout after 65 scoreless minutes since the tiebreaker was adopted in 2005, it wasn't a first for their goaltender. Evgeni Nabokov played a pair of such games during his last five seasons with the San Jose Sharks.
Nor was it the first time Nabokov had met up with Ilya Bryzgalov in a game that was scoreless through 65 minutes -- though he was much happier with the ending this time. Bryzgalov, then with Phoenix, beat Nabokov and the Sharks 1-0 on Oct. 12, 2009, in San Jose.
In fact, Bryzgalov was 3-0 before Tuesday in games that went to a shootout without a goal. But this season hasn’t been a good one for him or the Flyers in the tiebreaker. Bryzgalov is 0-4 and has allowed eight goals on 10 attempts; the Flyers are 1-5 as a team, and their 20 shootout wins are the fewest by any team in the history of the tiebreaker.