Piggybacking off our look at Patrick Kane’s season, it’s always fun to see how scoring has jumped up in the league this year. By now you know this, but let’s add some detail to it.
Last year, only three players broke 100 points, topping out with Connor McDavid’s 108. This year, nine players are on track to hit the century mark. As we discussed with Kane, he and Kucherov are on the way to over 110 points, No one’s cracked that since Henrik Sedin in 2010 (which totally went well for him after that). Last year, no one topped 50 goals. This year, five guys have a chance at it, with Ovechkin and Kane being almost locks and Skinner, Draisaitl, and Point having a chance if they get on their horse.
Everyone would love to know the reason, and it seems pretty obvious. But follow my work and we’ll get there in the end. Where I’m kind of fascinated is that there are 13 players this season who have played over 30 games that are shooting over 20%. Last year there were four. So you see where this going.
The league-save percentage has dropped from .912 last year to .908 this year, which is the biggest drop seen since the season before and after the lockout. But as we know, back then there was a 30% increase in power plays, which led to a lower SV% simply because teams were killing off nearly six penalties per game (what?!). This year has actually seen a decrease in power play opportunities per team, from 3.04 last year to 3.03 this year. There’s basically no difference.
Which is why we don’t see a huge spike in power play production. Ok, Kucherov is in a class by himself with 39 power play points already, with the next highest total being 31. Last year, two players finished with more than 40 power play points (Kessel and Wheeler). Kucherov is obviously going to do so unless he has a stroke (and even then), and beyond that really only his teammates Stamkos and Point have a good shot at coming along for the ride.
So it seems most of the improvement is at evens. Last year, McDavid led the league in ES points with 84, and no one else had more than 66 (yeah ok he probably should have won the Hart again, huh?). This year, McDavid, Kane, and Kucherov are averaging just about an even-strength point per game, and a further four are on track to score more than 70 even-strength points per game.
So basically the argument comes down to whether it’s the new goalie pads leading to more holes for the league’s best snipers to find, or the crack down on slashing to open up more space and make it easier for players to get where they want to go. The fact that teams are averaging less shots per game this season than last (31.3 to 31.8 last year) would lean it more toward the goalies. And the fact that attempts per team, and scoring chances per team are a shade/tick down from last year would point to that as well. However, high-danger chances per team have gone up from 10.6 per 60 to 10.9. It’s about a 3% rise.
Which doesn’t sound like a lot. Teams averaged 9-10 high-danger chances per game last year, which means getting another one this year just about every three games, which if you carry it out it is another four to five goals per season.
So yeah, it’s the pads. But hey, it’s fun!