Free marketing advice for the NHL: Your 2018-19 season slogan should be “Goals, goals, goals.”
Pucks are going into the net at a record clip so far as slimmed-down goaltenders have struggled to keep scoring down. In the first five days of the season there were two 7-6 overtime games, with the Pittsburgh Penguins defeating the Washington Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs beating the Chicago Blackhawks, featuring tons of action and not much defense.
“It was a pretty crazy hockey game. It was a fun one to play in, just too bad we couldn’t get two points,” Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane told reporters after the loss. “It’s probably like a nightmare game for the coaches where there’s a lot of goals for and a lot of goals against.”
Entering Saturday, teams were averaging 3.20 goals per game, which would be the most since the 1993-94 season if the pace holds. After scoring stayed relatively flat for more than a half decade the league implemented changes the last two years to increase scoring and they appear to be working.
Extra restrictions were put on goalie pants midseason in 2017 and goaltenders’ chest and arm pads were shrunk before this season.
“When it’s going in it’s always a good feeling,” Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews told reporters Wednesday. “You want to keep it going and keep getting those opportunities and keep generating chances because it’s just going to get harder and harder as the season goes on.”
It remains to be seen if all the scoring is sustainable but even if the goal totals dip a little, this season should show how committed the NHL is to offense.
Especially if games keep producing football scores.
“I don’t think you expect to score (13) goals in the first two games, let alone come to Pittsburgh and end up 7-6,” Capitals forward TJ Oshie told reporters after losing to the Penguins. “Usually games are a little lower-scoring, a little tighter than that.”
Who’s in net?
Another reason goals are up? The number of high-end goalies is down.
Florida Panthers starter Roberto Luongo is out two-to-four weeks after injuring his knee in his team’s opener. The Los Angeles Kings placed Jonathan Quick on injured reserve after he suffered a lower-body injury in practice. And two-time Stanley Cup champion Matt Murray sustained the third concussion of his career skating with the Penguins on Monday.
Add it all up and 2018-19 is not shaping up to be the year of the goaltender.
Came in like a…
New Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty, an orange, furry and weird monstrosity, debuted Tuesday in outrageous fashion.
Gritty swung from the ceiling of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on a rope while Miley Cyrus’ 2013 hit “Wrecking Ball” blared through the arena before a matchup to the San Jose Sharks.
Gritty came down from the rafters to Miley Cryrus’ “Wrecking Ball” 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/3FHBBc9iKx
— Bar South N Celly™ (@BarSouthNCelly) October 10, 2018
Undeterred by the mascot’s performance, the Sharks destroyed the Flyers 8-2. Got any songs about defense Gritty?
Three Stars of the Week
1. Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs
Twelve points (including nine goals) through five games for the 21-year-old. Between him and teammates Morgan Rielly and John Tavares this team should make goaltenders’ lives miserable all year.
2. Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks
The captain’s still got some life in his 30-year-old legs. Toews has five goals through four games and appears poised for a bounce back after a down season last year.
3. John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks
Four starts, three wins and one shutout for the goalie so far. The Ducks might avoid a drop-off this season if he keeps this up.