Jame Mirtle has an interesting post regarding the increase in offense from 2003-04 to this season and where the goals came from. James concludes:
It’s also no wonder Gary Bettman wants to keep the number of penalties called per game high for the postseason — without the increased scoring generated on the power play, the notion of a radically transformed, higher-scoring (read: better) league goes up in smoke.
Now, as much as I love bashing Gary Bettman digging deeper into the numbers will bring out a different picture. According to James, power play goals have increased 48.2%, short handed goals increased 30.3% and even strength goals increased just 5.12%. He also calculates that of the 1125 additonal goals in the NHL this season, 80.2% are accounted for via the extra PP and SH goals. From these numbers it makes his conclusion seem obvious. But, this is one of those cases where the surface statistics don’t tell you the whole story. Let me dig further.
What James didn’t account for is that because there is more PP time, one should expect more PP and SH goals. Also, because there is more PP time there is naturally less even strength time. Grabbing some ice time statistics from mc97hockey.com we can draw more accurate conclusions.
(Note: mc97hockey.com only has ice time by situation stats through to the Olympic break so I have prorated them to the full year)
What we will find is that teams played 39% more time on the PP (or PK) this season than in 2003-04. Combined PP and SH increased 46%. When we factor out the ice time difference PP and SH goal scoring only increased a measly 5%.
We will also find that even strength ice time dropped to 88.3% of what it was in 2003-04 while even strength goals were up 5.12%. When we adjust for the ice time difference we find that even strength goals are in fact up 19%.
Why the difference? I suspect the reason why even strength goals are up more than PP/SH goals after adjusting for ice time is because power plays are usually just played inside the blue line and the benefits of no red line and the crack down on neutral zone obstruction has very little influence on the PP.
In conclusion, while the greatest net increase in goals this season has been because of the increase in penalties, the crack down on obstruction and the other rule changes have had a much more significant impact on the rate of goals being scored even strength.