Skip to content

Poll: Does the NHL need to address the decline in goal-scoring?

Apr 26, 2012, 5:06 PM EDT

Rangers versus Sens

Before you answer, consider:

—- Of the six teams that have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, five of them (Pittsburgh, Boston, Vancouver, Detroit and Chicago) finished in the top seven in goals per game during the regular season.

—- If Ottawa is eliminated tonight, it’ll make six of seven.

—- The top two defensive teams, St. Louis and Los Angeless, are still alive.

—- If the Rangers win tonight, that’ll make it the top three.

—- Nashville and Phoenix are still alive, both with a reputation for playing a defensive style.

—- Washington advanced to the second round, with much of the credit going to coach Dale Hunter for convincing the Capitals to commit to defense and having the courage to limit Alex Ovechkin‘s ice time.

Granted, not everyone’s on board with defense.

The general managers of the Blackhawks and Canucks – Stan Bowman and Mike Gillis, respectively – have said they’ll continue to focus on scoring goals.

“Two years ago, we won the Cup, and two unheralded goaltenders went to the Finals in [Antti] Niemi and [Michael] Leighton,” said Bowman. “Everyone was saying, ‘I guess goaltending’s not that important.  You don’t need to have a supposed great goaltender to win the Cup.’

“Here we are, two years later, and it’s shifting back the other way. Whatever’s happening that season, people put emphasis on. This year, goaltending had really ruled the league. Is that the way it’s going to be, going forward? It’s tough to predict.”

Said Gillis: “I don’t think it’s coincidence four teams left in the West don’t have a player that averaged a point a game. They all have outstanding goaltenders, they surround the guy, block tons of shots, limit scoring opportunities, and the teams that play more our style are out. You can’t change mid-stream. I believe in offense. I always have. I believe the league believes in offense. If not we should change the name of the game to goalie.”

Whether you’re alarmed by the trend towards defensive hockey depends on your taste (and probably which team you support), but generally sports fans enjoy scoring.

If the NHL does choose to address the issue, it could look at clamping down on obstruction (again) and/or reducing the size of goalie pads.

It could even explore radical measures, like making rules to prevent teams from collapsing around their goalies. Which while unlikely to be implemented would at least get people talking.


  1. solador78 - Apr 26, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    The NHL needs to address the rampant stickwork and headshots that stifle offensive creativity and injure the game’s best players. Even when the stars come back, they’re never the same again.

    • mickeyb21 - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:07 PM

      I follow the Blues and their highest point per game players all missed significant time due to concussions. Concussions are taking skilled players and their goal scoring out of the game. Blues goals per game increased significantly with McDonald and Perron back in the lineup. The same thing happened when Crosby and Letang returned as well. When Backstrom gets back in the flow, I think that will happen to the Capitals as well.

      • solador78 - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:56 PM

        Lafontaine, Lindros, Kariya, Primeau, Pronger, Sarvard, Stevens, Laperierre, Beukeboom,
        Richter, G. Courtnall, Deadmarsh, Svoboda, Rucchin, Moore, Grimson, Scatchard, Barnaby… The list goes on and on.

        Alfredsson, Crosby, Toews, and both Sedins all played through symptoms in this year’s playoffs.

        “I think some you might find aren’t legitimate. … I think there’s a small percentage, not a great percentage, of players who use it as an excuse, `Oh yeah, I’ve got a concussion.’ They can milk it. It’s a hard thing to really say that you haven’t, you know, if you’re trying to get some extra insurance money out of it to get paid an extra year or something.” -Shanahan’s Boss

  2. markcycy - Apr 26, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    pens/flyers was very low scoring

    • bmscalise - Apr 26, 2012 at 5:58 PM

      I get the sarcasm – but that series was an anomaly in every possible way. One outlier doesn’t negate the massive drop in goal scoring we’re seeing more generally.

  3. scoops1 - Apr 26, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    I thought they did hence why the abolished The Trap

  4. bmscalise - Apr 26, 2012 at 5:36 PM

    If by addressing goal scoring you mean something ridiculous like making bigger nets, I say no. But the league absolutely needs to address it by – you know – actually enforcing their rule book. I posted this earlier today, but I’ll do it again:

    With the return of obstruction, it is not surprising that teams built for skill, speed, and puck management – Van, Pitt, Det, esp – are out of the playoffs. I know Bylsma has already said that the Pens systems will change to acknowledge that obstruction is back in full force. While it is certainly justified to say these teams could have adjusted, their systems were built for the “new NHL” and simply didn’t work like they were supposed to. Philly and Nash (sort of) might be the only exceptions to this trend. And all we’ll see next year is more teams instituting passive systems to deal with this new reality. Caps are simply ahead of the curve because they fell apart a bit earlier than the rest.

    So – welcome to the Dead Puck Era 2.0 – where mediocrity (not parity) rules the day. The NHL is the only league in the planet that would minimize its skill in the name of some stupid vision of “old time hockey.”

    • paperkid96 - Apr 26, 2012 at 5:42 PM

      I agree with bmscalise.

      I would also like to see some more restriction on goalie equipment. The size of the pads on the tall goalies makes it look like a score-o game at intermission. I love watching an athletic goalie make great saves, but parking Jabba the Hut in front of the net does nothing for me.

      • goalieoldie529 - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:28 PM

        paper, have you ever put on the pads and stood in front of the goal? With the new composite sticks being used the puck velocity is greater that it has ever been. So it is only right that the goalie equipment keep pace with the improvemnts in player equipment. And I haven’t seen too many “Jabba the Huts” playing in the NHL. What we have is good goaltending and great saves, which is as it should be.

      • paperkid96 - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:50 PM

        Nope. Not a goalie. I don’t think I have to have played goalie to have an opinion. I understand with the velocity of the puck they need protection. Why is it a D-man can lay down 5 ft from the shot and take a shot? I’m not suggesting decreasing the padding as much as narrowing things up a bit.

        Jabba the Hut was for sure the wrong term. I do however believe that size has taken over for athleticism in goal. Its the way of the game. I understand the taller you are the taller the pad needs to be. I don’t think today’s (generally speaking) are as athletic as past goalies.

        Maybe they should just make them all leather again and and let the weight regulate the size.

      • goalieoldie529 - Apr 26, 2012 at 7:21 PM

        The current leg pad width is actually abou the same or even a little smaller than the pads that I used in the70’s and 80’s. As a matter of fact, the current width for regulation pads is 11″ which is down from the 12″ pads that were being used before 2005. However there is a difference in the height of the leg pad which offers better knee and thigh protection. As for the blocker, the current blocker size is also much smaller than the blocker that I used in the 70’s and 80’s. The current regs for the trapper are also smaller than in the past. If you want to go way back though, the equipment was smaller in the 50’s and 60’s but that also was before the players used curved sticks and shots on goal were coming in a lot lower. Goaltender height is another matter though. If you were to look at the physical size of the players in any major sport you would find that players in the modern era are bigger. That being said, I would challenge you to compare the athleticism in old game films to the athleticism in current ones and I think you would find that a great save is still a great save.

      • goalieoldie529 - Apr 26, 2012 at 7:31 PM

        Try goin to and looking up the historical data on playoff game scores. You will find that the scores from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s are comparable to this years playoff scores. So why does anything need to done to address a non-issue?

      • paperkid96 - Apr 26, 2012 at 7:40 PM

        A sheet of plywood keeps the puck out the net. Doesn’t mean its a great save.

    • stakex - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:02 PM

      Bylsma, like Lemieux, is just trying to get even more room for he skilled players. Hes making a stink about “obstruction” hoping the league goes to even bigger extremes to get rid of it since he has a high skill team. He wants Crosby and Malkin to be able to walk up and down the ice without anyone being able to look at them…. which is why Lemieux use to whine about hooking/holding when he played.

      The reality of it is that obstruction has NOT returned to the game. Watch a playoff game from a the pre-lockout era and then watch a game from this year. Its hardly the same sport. Hell you can do the same thing with regular season games… and you would see that the amount of obstruction in todays game is a small fraction of what it was just 9 years ago. Have the refs stopped calling every little tap with the stick, and have they gotten a bit wiser to the rampant diving going on? Sure… but thats not a bad thing.

      • comeonnowguys - Apr 27, 2012 at 12:31 AM

        “he has a high skill team.”

        Doesn’t that strike you as odd, though? Shouldn’t having a high skill team mean a reasonable chance of playoff success? Pitt, Van, Det, Chi all have some of the best players in the game, and they’re all gone after the first round.

        I’m not saying it should be a guarantee, but if the near future of the game is mediocre teams (not necessarily saying all the teams that advance are) gumming up games to the point where skill is useless, it’s not good for hockey, and there is no danger of the sport ever breaking out of #4 in the U.S. (Hell no, I’m not counting NASCAR)

  5. cableguymike - Apr 26, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    Get rid of coaches. Problem solved.

  6. biasedhomer - Apr 26, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    Goal scoring can easily be addressed if the Refs called every play that was a penalty a penalty, instead of picking and choosing and having make up calls.

    • stakex - Apr 26, 2012 at 5:48 PM

      Then games would take 4 hours to play…. thats REALLY going to make fans happy.

      • bmscalise - Apr 26, 2012 at 5:52 PM

        No – the players will adjust and stop taking the fricking penalties.

  7. thehighcountrybear - Apr 26, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    What the NHL needs to address is over-sized goalie equipment hung on over-sized goalies; hard as it is to believe, there was a time when goalies actually had to have some ability but now, they simply squat legs-splayed waving blockers and trappers that cover four square feet above the pads. And, the NHL needs to address the new-generation of interfering as it’s evolved in recent years, and flourishing on lesser teams like the Predators, Coyotes and Blues…therein lies the rub, figuratively and literally! Low talent over-sized players applying sticks, forearms and full-body rubs have choked free movement on already restrictive ice surfaces, and when a player can actually get a clean look, there’s nothing to look at beyond the massive goalies and their massive gear? The game’s being strangled to the benefit of lesser clubs who are permitted to exploit the rules while reaching deeper into the playoffs to help balance books while off-setting their own poor management…the system nurtures the weak and penalizes the strong! Fairness and sportsmanship are fantasies they taught in schools forty years ago, now it’s the cheat, cheat, cheat, no-call-no-foul mentality that permeates the game and empties arenas everywhere; who wants to shell-out big dollars for that garbage…not the prudent and discriminating sports consumer in the newer American markets, just look at their attendance statistics?

    • lostpuppysyndrome - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:17 PM

      Lots of people shell out money for that “garbage.” The top 20 teams in attendance in the 2011-12 season averaged no less than 96% seats sold per game. The lowest attendance numbers were A) southern teams and/or B) teams that are terrible. Facts get in the way sometimes, don’t they? Your rose-tinted glasses assessment of old-timey hockey is off base too. Yeah, bench-clearing brawls, ankle whackin’, and sucker punches were the epitome of fairness and sportsmanship. Cheap shots and personal vendettas were as much around “back in the day” as they are now; it’s just that players are bigger, faster, and more skilled than they’ve ever been. Bigger trains make for a bigger train wreck. And as for goalie pad sizes? Yeah, fans would love to see those get smaller for the sake of seeing 80s era scores every night, but to my knowledge I’ve never heard a player, coach or GM say that reducing pad sizes is the answer.

    • paperkid96 - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:57 PM

      Yo Highcountry. I don’t think you are allowed to talk about goalie equipment unless you played goalie professionally and faced 100 mph slapshots. ha!

      Thank you for going more in depth on the point i was trying to make earlier.

  8. projectmayhem11 - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:10 PM

    Simple rule changes to the power play can fix the low scoring. 1) enable icing on power plays making the penalized team forced to play the puck instead of clearing it. 2) all penalty time must be served. Teams can have multiple attempts to score off the same penalty. By creating more offensive opportunities, more goals are likely to be scored.

    • bloggersarenotjournalists - Apr 26, 2012 at 7:10 PM

      Montreal used to rape teams when all penalty time must be served. They are the single reason why it’s in it’s current form

  9. stakex - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:11 PM

    Lets clear up one myth really quick. Obstruction is certainly not back to the level it was in 2003… and what little has crept back into the game is NOT why scoring is down. Scoring is down because far more teams are going with a “defense first” strategy… which highlights the biggest problem with adding more goal scoring to the NHL: No matter what you do with rule changes, coaches will find a way to counter it. Call more penelties, and players will get better at avoiding them and teams will get better and killing them off. Do something to speed up the game, and teams will find ways to slow it down again. Its all about defense, and unless you bar teams from playing defense…. its going to be hard to increase scoring with rule changes alone.

    In fact, there are only two sure fire things the league can do to increase goal scoring permanently:

    1. Make the net bigger. The league has in fact toyed with this idea, even testing bigger nets a few years ago. I doubt they would ever go this far.

    2. Make goalie equipment smaller. This would be the area to target to increase scoring. Probably the main reason less goals are scored now then 20 years ago is that goalies are a whole lot better now adays. A large part of that has to do with their equipment. Make it smaller, and more pucks will go in…. seems simple enough.

    • paperkid96 - Apr 26, 2012 at 7:04 PM

      Boy oh Boy. Must be lots of Goalies on this site. A lot of thumbs down anytime goalie equipment is mentioned.

  10. smgraff4 - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    There are two more rules that would increase scoring, but both of these rules would be wildly unpopular with owners.

    1) Expand the rink to IIHF dimensions. In other words, make the rinks such that the KHL and NHL rinks are identical in size. NHL owners will not like this because increasing the size of the rink will inevitably mean reducing the capacity of their arenas, and thus reduce the gate money that is coming through.

    2) Removing the instigator rule and allow for enforcers (or expand fighting). You would not want to take Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin out of the game IF you had to also respond to a Colton Orr, Cam Janssen, DJ King, or PL3. Don Cherry and a lot of other hockey experts argue that having the enforcers keeps pests or players wanting to intimidate the star players off of them. (It’s the old rule in Tom and Jerry, if Tom wanted to catch Jerry, he would also have to respond to the pitbull chasing him.)

    Also, for teams that want to increase scoring…get guys that enjoy and always work on their one-vs-one battles (like those players with basketball-type ability to beat defenders one-on-one and are committed to doing it.

  11. smgraff4 - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    As another comment. Low-scoring games are actually more exciting, and create much more compelling games because the goals become more significant.

    • travishenryskid - Apr 26, 2012 at 7:14 PM

      If I could thumbs down this until my computer broke, I would.

  12. thehighcountrybear - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    While you assert the people shell out money for that garbage, they must do so while not attending the games? I have ‘centre ice’ so I see the American teams playing each other, impossible in the Canadian overkill we get north of the 49th…the arenas are half empty outside of original six cities, fact! Insofar as coaches and general managers not being concerned about the rink size, the equipment and the obstruction…do you actually read anything related to hockey news beyond the cliche-ridden drivel espoused in Canadian media outlets. Forget rose-tinted glasses and yearning for the old days, hockey in the present for all the myths about speed and skill is plain and simply boring! I’d take any team from the sixties through the eighties, train them to today’s standards with today’s equipment, then you’d see skill and entertainment. I suppose with the rise of the WWF and UFC, the natural transition of those same arts [?] to hockey could be expected, and even appreciated by some wet-behind-the-ears snot-nosed punk, but by fans of the game who’ve seen the greats, no thank you!

  13. buffalomafia - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:39 PM


    • travishenryskid - Apr 26, 2012 at 7:12 PM

      Couldn’t have said it better.

  14. riles1008 - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    Obstruction would most definitely up scoring. Goalie pads in my opinion are fine, the technology on sticks is crazy these goalies have a lot to deal with.

  15. thehighcountrybear - Apr 26, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    Another myth from goalieoldie…how does oversize equipment protect the goalie? If it’s oversize as are the pads and trappers and blockers worn in the ‘new NHL’, they’re presumably protecting thin air…you know, the thin air where the pucks should be going were the equipment not so large in support of lesser-skilled giants like Rinne and Smith, both of whom only got their present numbers when the new equipment became de rigueur! There is carbon fibre equipment that could protect the goalie while barely increasing size of pads from what regular players wear, but that wouldn’t cover half the net…what a load of hooey. as for carbon fibre sticks increasing shot speed, another myth…the carbon sticks gave more players better shots, not harder shots; Bobby and Dennis Hull both possessed slap shots clocked at 126 miles per hour, yet today’s fan gets all wet when Chara or Weber hit 106…the chief difference, today’s player has little control on the stick’s whip so shots go high…a lot!

    • solador78 - Apr 26, 2012 at 7:03 PM

      The issue is not so much with the pads and gloves but more the oversized chest protectors that guys like Roy and Brodeur made fashionable after they won multiple Vezinas.

    • goalieoldie529 - Apr 26, 2012 at 7:51 PM

      Bear, I have already addressed the “myth” about “oversized” goalie equipment. Anyway, I am curious about how long you have been playing hockey?

    • goalieoldie529 - Apr 26, 2012 at 8:56 PM

      And by the way, officially the fastest slapshot belongs to Chad Kilger who managed 106.6 mph on December 3rd, 2006 during the Toronto Maple Leafs skills competition. Unofficially Bobby Hull is said to have let one rip that reached 118.3 mph, however the method used by Popular Mechanics to measure it is considered questionable at best. The long and short of it is the laws of physics prove that the transfer of energy from stick to puck using a carbon fiber stick is more efficient therefore providing higher puck velocity.

  16. bleed4philly - Apr 26, 2012 at 7:12 PM


  17. kingjoe1 - Apr 26, 2012 at 7:55 PM

    The Caps/Bruins game last night was awesome. The Canucks/LA game the other night was one of the best i have seen in a long time, and none of them were high scoring. I really hate the high scoring games, it takes away a key part of what makes hockey exciting

    • salmon90 - Apr 27, 2012 at 12:08 AM

      I hope your not talking about Game 5 Canucks/LA. I was at that game. The Canucks play would have had them chastised in the pre-season it was so uninspiring. God awful game.

  18. thehighcountrybear - Apr 26, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    Radar is radar…both Hulls were clocked over 126 mph, and this at a time when men were being put on the moon, so spare us the technology argument. Physics mean nothing when you involve near perfect physical specimens as were the Hulls…both would have gone straight through knuckle-dragging apes like Weber and Neil! Carbon sticks simply bend further through the vertical axis, releasing more energy as they straighten; the structural integrity of carbon sticks through the lateral axis is plain to see on any given night. In the present, 145 pound giants have screaming snap-shots…none have snap shots that could remotely equate those of Mike Bossy or Mickey Redmond, both of whom employed wood.

  19. thehighcountrybear - Apr 26, 2012 at 9:15 PM

    Considered questionable at best…by whom, goalies pontificating on matters upon which they know nothing? Hockey players as we know, populate the faculties of MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Cal Poly among others…?

  20. thehighcountrybear - Apr 26, 2012 at 9:21 PM

    Since you asked! I have played forty four years…when not wintering in Florida, I play three times a week with players half my age [ they call me the goon ]? And, I have coached and managed teams from 1976 through the present…I have one family member who played goalie for the Red Wings, and to this day, I play with retired NHL players playing in a senior league and living hereabouts…you?

  21. thehighcountrybear - Apr 26, 2012 at 9:30 PM

    Nothing quite like Wiki to engender the new generation hockey expert…more keyboard heroes than hockey heroes in these pages, no doubt!

  22. thehighcountrybear - Apr 26, 2012 at 10:51 PM

  23. salmon90 - Apr 26, 2012 at 11:45 PM

    Where’s the poll?

    Yes – absolutely. However, I’m willing to wait until after these 2nd round series (particularly in the West) to make judgement. Maybe I’m just upset because my Canucks got beat by a defensive beast in LA? Maybe the LA/St. Louis series will be a barn-burner and not an exhibition on shot-blocking and back-checking. Maybe Nashville and Phoenix won’t be a repeat of Dallas/NJ 2000. I’ll wait and see.

  24. comeonnowguys - Apr 27, 2012 at 12:04 AM

    The headline is exactly what’s wrong with the discussion. I’ve got no problem watching a 1-0 game at all!

    I’ve got a problem watching one team just squat in the neutral zone or center ice, killing any flow or enjoyment to the game.

    That Phoenix/Nashville series may as well be a rod hockey table with all ten skaters in fixed spots just whacking the puck at the other end. (Peg-gy! Peg-gy! Peg-gy!)

    I saw a couple games where once one of the trap teams got a lead, they basically sat five guys around the goalie for 40 minutes. Little effort to move the puck past center ice. I’m not saying the leading team should be forced to put their lead at high risk, but surely there’s a happy medium?

    Because games like that are unwatchable.

    Expand the rinks to international dimensions. It gives more room to skate, and more space to avoid headshots.

    Institute a 3-2-1 points system to take a little incentive away from the Pity Point, and more incentive to actually play to win.

    You don’t have to mess with goalies. The balance doesn’t work if you make their job impossible.

    I like that idea of making the PK unit get the puck out of their zone before clearing it.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kessel (1839)
  2. P. Kane (1411)
  3. S. Matthias (1250)
  4. P. Datsyuk (1125)
  5. D. Carcillo (1105)