Thursday, November 03, 2005

Ottawa's Offence

One of the biggest goals the NHL has stated for this season is that of increasing the number of goals per game. This has been done with many rule changes including reducing the size of goalie equipment, reducing puck handling by goalies, increasing the size of the offensive zone, allowing two line passes and most importantly, the obstruction crackdown. This has catalzyed an increase in scoring in the NHL so far this year by over a goal per game.

I chose the word catalyzed for a reason. A catalyst is something that speeds up a chemical reaction. It doesn't do anything unless the reaction is already occurring. Over the history of the NHL scoring has been somewhat cyclical. Sometimes it is up and other times it is down. There are complicated reasons for the rises and drops, but for a large part it can be explained by teams having success and leading other teams to follow them. A team or two have success defensively and many of the remaining teams in the NHL will follow their model (this has happened recently). Eventually, a couple teams will come along who play an offensive game and they will succeed. Other teams will follow their lead. This cycle has repeated a few times over the years.

The Ottawa Senators have recently emerged as the best offensive team in the NHL (and probably its best team). In the past few days, they have defeated Toronto 8-0 and Buffalo 10-4. This cements Ottawa as the highest scoring team in the NHL. They have scored 4.73 goals per game so far this year. This success has shown up in the individual scoring leaders as well. Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley of the Senators are three of the four highest scorers in the NHL right now (joining Eric Staal of Carolina). They have other offensive weapons as well. Martin Havlat scored four goals against Buffalo last night. Havlat missed time due to a suspension for kicking Hal Gill of Boston. If he had more games played, he might also be among the NHL's scoring leaders.

Ottawa has learned that when they run and gun this well they are very hard to beat. Their best opportunity to win is to play this style. If they play with a run and gun offensive style, they can get several goals ahead of their opponents. In a defensive game, the score may be close and a lucky bounce may cost them the win.

If Ottawa has considerable success with this method, other teams will follow. This will lead to scoring increases leaguewide.

Given Ottawa's talent levels, it seems quite likely they will succeed. The only question is how long can they keep that talent together given the increased free agency that this CBA brings.

Just to point out a slight error, it's Philadelphia with 4.73 Goals/Game.

Ottawa is actually 2nd in the NHL in that respect at 4.67

An amazing disparity between the highest/lowest scoring teams this year. Colombus is averaging less then 1.75Goals/Game.

Not an attractive total to say the least.
Interesting, I was writing a post where I commented on this while you were writing this comment.

When I wrote my post, Philadelphia had not yet passed the Sens in goals per game. That happened last night a few hours later.
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