The new (post-lockout) NHL, is a league of fast-paced action, less clutch-and-grab hockey, and one that promotes goal scoring above all else. All of those aspects are great for the development of a marketable league.
The only player that has to sacrifice in this modern league is the goalie. NHL puck-stoppers have had to conform to new equipment regulations, more penalties, faster hockey, and restrictions on playing the puck in the defensive zone.
In the four seasons prior to the lockout, NHL goalies posted shutouts in an average of 14 percent of the games played. It was not that uncommon for a standout goalie to record 10 or more shutouts in a season.
In the three full seasons since the lockout, only three goalies have amassed 10+ shutouts (Lundqvist '07-'08, Brodeur '06-'07, and Kiprusoff '05-'06).
Many NHL pundits believed that in the new era of high scoring games, goals against averages would soar, save percentages dip, and that shutouts would become all but extinct.
However, in '08-'09, the shutout rate has increased to 13 percent of NHL games. In the first season post lockout ('05-'06), as teams and goalies adjusted to new rules, shutouts dropped to approximately 8 percent of games.
The next two seasons saw shutout rates creep back to around 11 percent, but not near the prior four years.
At the halfway mark of this season, four goalies already have 5+ shutouts (Luongo, S. Mason, Conklin, Backstrom), and are on pace for 10 or more.
Another observation is that the younger, faster goalies are mastering the pace of play in front of them, as many shutouts have been recorded by emerging or rookie netminders.
Will we see a re-emergence of the shutout? Can NHL goalies fully adapt to the newest rule changes and equipment modifications, and make the shutout game just as exciting and marketable as the high-scoring affair?
As a fan of the game, I hope so. We have a new and diverse array of young guns in the league, and a handful of masterful young goalies would be a pleasant complement to all the goal scoring.
Enjoy the game!