Like most NHL seasons, the 2021-22 campaign started with offenses way ahead of defenses and goals being scored with great frequency.
“Every year it starts with scoring up because teams haven’t locked things down yet,” said New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz, who is in his 23rd NHL season.
Except they never did lock things down. Scoring isn’t just up this season in the NHL — it has exploded. Through Saturday’s games, teams are averaging 3.10 goals per team per game, according to Hockey Reference data. That’s up from 2.90 goals per game last season and 2.98 goals per game in 2019-20.
If that scoring average holds, it will be the highest in the NHL since the 1995-96 season (3.14).
Examples of this offensive buoyancy abound:
The Florida Panthers are averaging 4.16 goals per game through 74 games, the highest mark since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins (4.41 goals per game).
Auston Matthews, who already has shattered the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ single-season goals record, is averaging two goals for every 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, the highest average in the past 12 seasons.
There were 101 goals scored across the NHL’s 14 games on Saturday, only the second day in league history to feature 100 goals (103 on Jan. 23, 1993).
It’s a goal-scoring boom of historic proportions. No lead is safe this season. The final scores of some NHL games have resembled low-scoring NFL games — witness the Leafs’ 10-7 game against the Detroit Red Wings and the Panthers’ 9-3 game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Betting the under has been at a hockey fan’s own risk.
“As coaches, we try to figure out the trends,” Trotz said. “I think a number of things have happened.”
We spoke with players, coaches, executives and analysts from around the NHL to get their theories about the jump in goals this season, then put those theories to the test.