What’s happened to NHL scores?

While I don’t follow hockey as much as the other sports, I do like to catch up on the stats and check the scores, at least until the Devils are mathematically eliminated. Last season, I started to notice that the scoring had increased and with more mishapen scores, trending toward MLB scores. This year, I think it’s even more pronounced. I know that they made rule changes many years ago to increase scoring, including allowing the 2-line pass, but what’s happened lately to escalate this further?

Here are the stats - https://www.hockey-reference.com/leagues/stats.html

Goals per game is up a bit this year:

2018-19 - 3.10
2017-18 - 2.97
2016-17 - 2.77

It’s the highest since the mid-90’s.

I don’t follow the NHL closely, but I remember that, a few years ago, there was a lot of talk about how defensive strategies like the neutral zone trap were leading to less offense (and boring overall play). I don’t know if there have been rule changes made to try to loosen things up, but those stats suggest that there might have been.

Biggest rule change this year that may be affecting goals is goaltender upper body equipment. Arm and chest pads must be form-fitting. No more big, boxy chest protectors and huge jerseys. Follows on the heels of pants and pads restrictions over the past few years.

I have noticed more goals sneaking through the goalies’ arms this year, but it’s probably confirmation bias.

Aside from that, lots of theories that all probably contribute in some measure (stick penalty crackdowns, o-zone start conversions, sheer increase in talent), but I’ll throw out one hard stat: PP conversions are up over 2% over the past five years, and 70% of the 2018 YoY increase that Telemark points out is due to PP goals. Hard to say exactly why – advent and refinement of drop-pass entries, better shot selection, more/better D activation, etc. – but the PP is clicking more often.

My money is on goalie equipment: a crackdown on pad and jersey sizes.

I’d also like to suggest that teams no longer carry a “goon” on the team whose sole purpose is to fight or intimidate the opposition.

Agreed that the main cause is the goalie equipment. On top of that, I think they are calling hooking penalties much tighter than they have in the past – that will help the offense. And, the game seems faster lately – maybe better talent, as a third order effect? Early season games seemed much slower to me in the past than they do this year.

players are getting bigger, faster, and stronger. Even Wayne Gretzky says he doubts he would have been what he was, if he was playing in today’s NHL. Back in ‘87 (when I first started paying attention to hockey) Bob Probert and Harold Snepsts were the two biggest guys on the team at 6’ 3". Now that’s just above the average for an NHL player in 2018.

And the league has done a bunch of stuff to promote scoring such as the aforementioned rule change allowing two-line passes out of your own zone, the restrictions on goalie eqpt. (no more Patrick Roy wearing a size XXXXXXXXXL sweater) and moving to 3-on-3 OT and shootouts to eliminate tie games.

Thanks! It sounds like it’s due to a combination of factors. It’s just crazy this year on how often I’ve seen an 8-3 score line (or something similar).

goalies are also bigger now than in Gretzky’s day too. Not unusual to see a goalie that is 6-3 now.

The save percentage is down slightly this year (.909 so far versus 0.912-0.915 since 2010), which supports the argument that equipment rules might be making a difference in a very small way. But scoring is also traditionally higher in October for some reason, so we’ll have to get farther into the season to see.

The difference so far is well within normal ranges of chance. 0.13 goals per game is just one goal every eight games; that can happen just by virtue of a few more guys than usual having good seasons (or if they’re goalies, bad ones.)