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What drives NHL score increases? Better players, worse goalkeepers, fewer fighters

Less than a week into the NHL season, we’re already seeing a slight uptick in scoring. Through Thursday’s game, the average NHL team saw him score 2.7 goals per 60 minutes of playing time, according to Natural Stat Trick. : Saved him 91.3% of the shots he faced 5-for-5 in total. This will be the lowest year on average.

This is an interesting trend that has persisted for several seasons. NHL save percentage peaked in his 2015-16 season when the goaltender made 92.5% of his saves. That number has been steadily declining since then, with him down a full 10 points early in the 2022-23 season after finishing at 91.6% of his last season. To put it into perspective, the worst team in the ’15-16 season (Calgary, 91.1%) would have been completely out of the bottom 10 in the league in the ’21-22 campaign, where he finished 24th. .

There are several plausible options for lower save rates, and I’d appreciate it if you could spend some time investigating each of them.

First, and most obviously, the pandemic has expanded the roster for the 2020-21 and ’21-22 seasons, allowing more players to play who are no sniff of the NHL. Last season he had 115 starting goalkeepers, compared to 85 in 2015-16. Not to mention that his 9- or 10-string defense on the team is much more NHL-ready than a 4- or 5-string goaltender.

Second, skaters are catching up with goaltenders. A decade ago it was common for goalkeepers to have separate camps and coaches, but now many of the sport’s elite forwards are expected to work together over the summer and hone their skills. . Coaches like Darryl Belfrey host his summer camps for elite players. Elite players make it their full-time job to make life miserable for opposing defenders and goalkeepers.

Third, goalkeepers are generally worse off. The golden age of goaltending is coming to an end as no aspiring goalie can fill the void left by goalkeepers like Carrie Price and Tukka Rusk. To make matters worse, NHL teams have restricted their search for goalkeepers to those who are 6ft 2in or taller (thus 3 of his 20 goalkeepers drafted in June). was less than that height), limiting opportunities to become a talented keeper.

The fourth is what we are going to talk about today. Teams can now build their rosters much more efficiently than before.

The fight didn’t leave the NHL for good. Tanner Jeannot led his NHL with 14 games last season, according to his precious That’s more than Cody McLeod, who led the league in 15-16 seasons and led the league with 12 games.

However, what sets Jeannot apart from McLeod is that Jeannot is a much better hockey player. Jeannot beat Calder last season in his Trophy voting where he finished seventh and was a mainstay in his third row for the Predators, averaging over 16 minutes per game. He also scored 41 points in 81 games. In contrast, McLeod averaged just over 10 minutes per game and had just 13 points. In fact, in his last three seasons, which culminated in ’15-16, he only scored a total of 38 points despite appearing in nearly every game.

Several of the other players included in the top 10 forwards in the Fighting Major had very productive seasons. It could have been a PK killing forward. Marcus Foligno, tied for fifth in 10 games, was perhaps the league’s strongest checkline mainstay.

Comparing it to previous years, we can see that the quality of the players on this list is vastly different. That’s the point. His third and his fourth line in the NHL are his spots on the roster that have improved significantly over the last decade and were previously reserved for players like Cody MacLeod. Zack Stortini, Jared Boll, George Parros, or any number of classic enforcers of his type are now used with stronger depth players.

In the team’s announced line-up for the season opener, by my count, there are only two players who fit this definition of a player. Just 7:24 on ice time last season. The Blue Jackets did the same with Matthew Olivier. He has averaged one out of every eight games in his professional career, and had just 11 points in 46 games in the AHL last season.

Otherwise, when the NHL’s fourth line hits the ice, we’re far more likely to see something akin to hockey than we’ve seen before. The average call-up last season saw him score 1.20 points per 60, putting him 22% above the trough of those types of players (0.96 P/60) in 2014-15. (By comparison, front-line players are up 21% over the same span, last season he was 2.21, up from 1.83 in 2014-15). Moreover, when the call-ups were on the ice last season, they averaged 1.96 and 2.43 goals per 60 minutes. Both of these rates are up from his low-scoring 2015-16 season, from his 1.64 GF/60, and his 2.06 GA/60.

What that means is that there is no respite in defense.

On Tuesday night, when the Predators were defending a two-goal lead in the third period against the Kings, they succeeded in keeping the Kings’ star from tying the game, but the Kings’ fourth line ( conceded a goal against Brendan Lemieux). running up the ice) and the third line (Quentin Byfield and Gabe Vilardi playing together in a 4v4). It’s a lot harder to defend those types of depth pieces than in 2016, when they might have had a fourth liner to rival Jordan Nolan or Kyle Clifford.

Teams still focus on size up front, but they also demand that these players must be able to keep up with the rush rather than just throwing a few hits and scoring the occasional goal.

Data Source with Natural Stat Trick

(Photo by Tanner Jeannot: John Russell / NHLI via Getty Images)