More Shots Are On Target
The NHL's stand against obstruction this season has not only led to a modest increase in scoring—through Sunday there had been 141 more goals scored than at the same point last season—but also brought a welcome change in the way goals are produced. There has been a corresponding decline in shots on goal (626 fewer over that span), and the two stats combined add credence to anecdotal evidence that with less clutching and grabbing, snipers are getting into prime scoring positions rather than taking low-percentage shots from the perimeter.
With two weeks left in the season, 35 players had scored 30 or more goals—more than double the 15 who had reached that standard at the same point last season. "There's more flow to games than there was a year ago," says Kings general manager Dave Taylor. "The crackdown was to help skill players, and it's done that."
After the league mandated the crackdown last summer, referees called obstruction-related penalties at an unprecedented rate in the first two months of this season. The number of such penalties has decreased dramatically since then (the rate of slashing infractions in March, for example, was down 50% from late November) not because refs are backing off but because players are finally learning to keep their hands to themselves.