Thursday, November 10, 2005

Something New For The NHL: GOALS!

Have you checked out the scores of NHL games lately? They're starting to look less like soccer scores and more like those of major league baseball. Or the NHL -- circa 1986.

Pucks are being put into the net at a much higher rate in this, the new and improved NHL. I don't have the actual statistics, but I also didn't need a thermometer to tell me the temperature dipped dramatically after lunchtime yesterday. Some things jump out at you.

The NHL's new rules must be having an effect, because final scores are actually reading 5-4, 8-6 -- stuff like that. In the "old days" -- that would be pre-lockout -- NHL scores were like a Sacramento Kings pregame presentation: low and irritating.

These days, a one-goal lead isn't as iron-clad as before. Neither are two-goal leads. In fact, the goals are coming so furiously now, relatively speaking, an NHL game is like a New York subway: you missed the last goal? There'll be another one around in a few minutes.

This is what the league wanted, of course. What batter way to wash the bad taste of the lockout out of everyone's mouth than by talking about all the offense?

I suspect the removal of the center red line, for offsides pass purposes, has a lot to do with the openness of the NHL today. So does the referees' constant thrusting up of their right arms to indicate penalties. It's not uncommon to see a team get 10, 12 power plays a night. You wonder when teams are going to start hiring special teams coaches, a la the NFL.

Five-on-five hockey is almost placed on the backburner now, like it's something that has to be condoned in between power plays. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, somewhere in the midst of his team's nine-game winning streak and hard-pressed to find anything to critique, said he wished the Red Wings were stronger in 5-on-5 situations. I suppose they were there somewhere, if you rooted through all the power plays and penalty kills.

It's fitting that Wayne Gretzky, that old Edmonton Oiler, should debut as a coach during these times. He was a large part of those footloose and fancy-free days of yore. I wonder if Paul Coffey is still in game shape?

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