Hockey, like many other sports, is a game that involves scoring more points than your opponent. However, over the last 30 years, the number of goals being scored every game has been steadily decreasing. Back in 1985 the NHL averaged 8 goals a game between the two teams, today the NHL averages only 5.3. But why is this?
The First reason is the skill-set of players. There is no denying that goaltenders have become more elite every generation. Goaltenders back in the 80’s looked like catchers that were thrown on the ice with skates. Their pads were obsolete by todays standards, and their technique was very sub-par. They saved on average 88% of the shots on goal which is pretty remarkable given their circumstances. However, the average save percentage of goalies in the NHL today is just under 92%. The numbers don’t seem to add up.
How can just a 4% difference in save percentage add up to 3 more goals a game? The answer is defense. The defense in the NHL today, is the best its ever seen. Very rarely do you see an offense bring a puck through the zone, beat the defense, and beat the goalie without some sort of miscommunication. It just doesn’t really happen. If it does, I can guarantee you’re going to see that shit on Sports Center.
The defense and goaltending are just too good and it makes it very difficult to get the puck in the net. A lot of goals that are scored come off of rebounds or funny misdirections that work in the offenses favor which makes for a mediocre highlight. Everyone loves a solid wristy or one timer, but they’re rare and hard to come by if the offense isn’t on the power play.
Besides hits, goals are what keep the game interesting. Everyone would rather see a nasty goal over a nasty save, but the game just doesn’t work that way. This is why there is talk about increasing the size of the goal. Whether or not this will happen, or if its good idea, is an entirely separate conversation, but it may make the game more interesting. At the end of the day, it would be a fair claim to say the NHL is becoming a defensive league.