Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Where Opponent's Scoring Is Down This Year

Last week, I wrote about the teams that are scoring less this year then last year despite the increase in scoring leaguewide. There are also four teams that are allowing less goals under the new rules in 2005/06 then they allowed in 2003/04. These teams are Detroit (2.06 goals per game this year, 2.30 in 2003/04), Ottawa (2.15 vs. 2.30), New York Rangers (2.44 vs. 3.05) and Phoenix (2.56 vs. 2.99).

Ottawa has had the league's best offence this year. That has been a big part of their improvement defensively. They are such a good run and gun team, that their best defence is keeping the puck on their offensive players. It doesn't hurt that they added Dominik Hasek in net to replace Patrick Lalime either.

Detroit is another team that is finding defensive success from playing a more offensive style. They also have a very good penalty kill (which is extremely important with the obstruction crackdown) which is 87.8% successful in killing penalties. It doesn't hurt that Manny Legace has been one of the better goaltenders in the NHL so far this year.

Phoenix has had strong goaltending from Curtis Joseph. Ironically, all three of the number one goalies on these three teams were members of the Detroit Red Wings in 2003/04, but were unable to have the same level of success with the goalie contreversy that developed. Paul Mara is also developing into a very good defender who is quite dominant in many Phoenix games.

The New York Rangers have also had a very good new goaltender in rookie Henrik Lundqvist. They also have a very good penalty kill success rate of 87.8%.

I think the biggest reason the goals against are down on these teams is a better team defensive system. This is a success of coaching. Each of these teams has a good new coach. Ottawa has Bryan Murray, Detroit has Mike Babcock, Phoenix has Wayne Gretzky and the New York Rangers have Tom Renney. All four of these coaches are doing quite well this year so far. It is interesting the Gretzky is on this list because he is in his first job coaching at any level and it was reasonable to be quite skeptical that he would succeed.

A very good goaltender who has is doing better than the team's previous goalie and a strong team defence brought in by a new coach has been the reason that these four teams are holding their opponents to less goals per game despite the goal scoring levels in the NHL increasing this year.

NOTE: Since I have concluded that reducing goals against this season - when goals are up leaguewide is a sign of good coaching, I thought I would link to a recent Battle of Alberta article where they try to quantify good coaching from an entirely different perspective.

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