David Singer over at The Ice Block has posted some interesting numbers about how the goals per game in the NHL has dropped over the first couple months. As you may know, I have been keeping track of this stuff as well and have a few interesting tidbits to add. While I don’t dispute his numbers I don’t necessarily think that it means production in the NHL is on a downward spiral.
The chart below shows a comparison of how the goals per game production has changed over the first 408 games of the NHL season and how it compares with the 2003-04 season (the two reddish lines, 2003-04 being the lower one). The green and blue lines represent 20 game averages (i.e. the average goals per game of games 1 thru 20). (Note: shutout goals not included)
As you can see, there has been substantial fluctuation in the 20 game averages with this season fluctuating a bit more than 2003-04. Around December 1st we saw the 20 game average hit a season low of around 4.5 goals per game. This is actually quite low, even for 2003-04 standards. The goal drought that caused this ran from Nov. 27 to Dec 1st and then quickly popped back to more normal levels that past several days. This short-term drop off would have a reasonably significant impact on David Singer’s lower goals per game averages for November and December.
The reality is that that the goals per game average for the season is slightly higher now than it was from October 16-19 (bottomed out at ~6.05). There does seem to be a very slow downward trend from a peak of around 6.37 goals per game around November 3rd to 6.14 where it is today. Where things settle out is yet to be determined but I think claiming a downward trend, especially a significant one, might be a bit premature.