Stanley Cup Playoffs: Decline in Scoring Must Be in Forefront of CBA Discussions

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Stanley Cup Playoffs: Decline in Scoring Must Be in Forefront of CBA Discussions
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Following the ugliest lockout in league history in 2005, the NHL did whatever it took to expand scoring in order to increase the excitement of the sport for the fans. However, by looking at some statistics and the Stanley Cup finalists in the last two seasons, it seems like those rule changes were all for naught.

Scoring has declined immensely since the 2010 playoffs. 

Immediately after the lockout, there was an upward tick in scoring, but it's all gone now. Stanley Cup finalists and champions are teams that are led by strong goaltending, not high-octane scoring.

Guys like Tim Thomas, Roberto Luongo, Jonathan Quick and Martin Brodeur are the ones playing for the Cup. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Claude Giroux, Marian Gaborik and Corey Perry are all watching from home. 

The numbers show a decline in scoring. 

Year Total Goals Total Games Goals per Game
2010 534 89 6.00
2011 499 89 5.61
2012 416 87 4.78

The chart above clearly shows that there's been a downward trend in goal scoring over the last three years. In fact, if we ignore the high-scoring Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers series from the first round, the 2012 goals per game total dips to just 4.44. 

In that series, 56 goals were scored in six games for an average of 9.33 goals per game. It was also one of the most exciting series in hockey history. This is more of what the NHL wanted coming after the lockout. Goals, stars and high-paced action.

So why has scoring decreased? 

It's easy to answer this question when you look at the scoring trends from round to round over the last three seasons. 

Year 1st 2nd 3rd SCF
2010 5.9 6.1 4.9 7.8
2011 5.7 5.4 6.3 4.4
2012 5.0 4.7 4.3 4.0

In 2010, more goals were scored as the playoffs commenced. This means that offensive-minded teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers were advancing. Teams won by putting pucks in the back of the net.

In 2011 and 2012, scoring has declined for the most part as we progress deeper into the playoffs.

This exemplifies the notion that defensive-minded teams are the ones advancing. We've had goalies dominate the playoffs. Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk and Patrick Kane get knocked out early and have stepped aside. It's all about Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur, Jonathan Quick and Tim Thomas now.

In other words, defense has been winning the titles in the last two years. 

Heading into an offseason which features an expiring CBA, the NHL can't be happy with those numbers. They definitely don't want to return to the days of clutch-and-grab hockey.

This year's New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings series was just not that compelling for a Stanley Cup Final. Aside from Game 6, the highest number of goals scored in a game was just four. That could easily turn people away. 

The ratings reflected this. Fewer people watched the Cup Finals this year. You can blame the markets involved, but let's face it: A lot of the action was quite dull during that series. While the diehard fan will watch anything, this wasn't great for casual fans. The NHL relies on those casual fans to boost ratings.

That being said, ratings as a whole were up and they have been up throughout the playoffs. The league may be willing to put a blind eye to the dip in scoring and not do anything about it in the upcoming labor negotiations, but it could rear its ugly head if the trend continues. 

What the league should do is crack down on penalties so that power plays are more frequent, institute a larger ice surface so the speed of the game increases, and enact new rules regarding smaller goalie equipment.

This will increase scoring and bring even more excitement to the NHL. 

The league needs to have their superstars be scorers, not goalies. Scoring forwards are more recognizable to the public than a goalie who wears a mask during games.

Plus, we could probably all agree that a hat trick is more exciting than a shutout. 

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