Three reasons why scoring is up, critiquing officials and when it is unwise to be ‘tough’?

For years, whenever NHL general managers gathered in Florida, post-trade deadline, goal-scoring (or the lack thereof) was at or near the top of the agenda. When NHL scoring fell to its lowest average in half a century in 2003-04, all kinds of solutions were discussed and debated to reverse a worrisome trend.

Some ideas represented minor tweaks. Others were radical, almost far-fetched (bigger nets actually got to the testing stage, before ultimately being rejected). The most important push – to regulate the size of bloated goalie equipment – also had the largest impact.

It was instructive, therefore, that when NHL GMs got together this past week, they chopped through a long list of agenda items, with a focus on salary-cap and CBA issues, as well as when the next World Cup of Hockey might be played (probably February of 2024).

But the only reference to goal-scoring came in a brief summary at the start of Day 1, when the league reported good news: The numbers continue to edge up.

Consider: According to Hockey-Reference, through the first 1,056 games of this season, teams averaged 3.11 goals per game.

That’s the highest total since 1995-96, when the average was 3.14 per game. In the eight years between then and the final season before the lockout (2003-04), the numbers slipped precipitously, all the way down to 2.57 goals per team per game.

Officially, the NHL passed the three-quarters mark of this season on March 19. At that juncture, according to figures provided by #NHLStats, five players were on pace to score 50 or more goals, including Auston Mathews, who reached that threshold Thursday, becoming the first Maple Leafs player in 28 years to do so. In addition, 16 players were on pace for 40 or more goals, which would be the most since 1995-96, and 58 players were on track for 30 or more goals, which would represent the fourth-most in NHL history. Two players – Mathews and Leon Draisaitl – are reasonably positioned to reach the 60-goal threshold, which hasn’t happened since Steven Stamkos in 2012.

There’s more. Altogether, 82 hat tricks have been scored, the most at this stage of the season in 25 years. As of last Sunday, 10 players were projected to reach or pass the 100-point plateau, which also hasn’t occurred since 1995-96.

Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers was the first to cross that threshold Wednesday night. Others will soon follow.

Scoring is up around the NHL: The question is, why?

Author: Lucy Green