It's the penalties, stupid

Yesterday I wrote that scoring is up 25% over the first hundred games. Today, I will examine the reasons why. I looked at shots per game, shooting percentage, penalties per game and powerplay efficiency. Each is up. However, not surprisingly it is penalties per game that seems to be having the greatest effect on the game. Amazingly, even strength goals per game are up only 3% this year.

The most telling stat is that last season 65% of goals were scored at even strength. This season, the number has dipped to 56.5% of goals. Special teams goals are becoming a much more important part of the game. Why did powerplay goals increase by so much? Because penalties per game are up.

Here are the stats:

Goals per game up 25% vs 2003

even strength goals per game 1.75 vs 1.7 up 3%

special teams goals per game 1.35 vs 0.87 up 55%

shots per game game 29.5 vs 28 last year up 5%

shooting percentage 10.5% vs 9.2% up 15%

penalty min/game/team 17.1 vs 14.9 up 15%

powerplay efficiency 17.2% vs 16.4% up 5%

Yes, every scoring related stat is up. However, it is telling that even strength goals per game are up only 3%. It’s all about drawing penalties and having a great powerplay.

The implications are obvious. Coaches will bench any player who takes an unneccessary penalty. Penalties per game will likely decline at least marginally. Teams will spend much more time practicing the power play. Due to the large number of powerplays per game, second units will become much more important. The big beneficiaries: shooting defencemen and shot tippers. It is becoming very difficult to clear the crease without drawing a penalty. Big bodies who can stay in front of the net will rack up the powerplay goals.