One of the relatively well-known elements of NHL history is that the 1980s were a decade of incredibly high scoring. While over the last 20 seasons the NHL has held pretty steady around five to five-and-a-half goals scored per game, in the 1980s games were averaging nearly two more goals per game. That’s not an insignificant difference, considering that games in a low-scoring league like the NHL are often decided by two goals or less. This has led to a lot of speculation, as people have both wondered at the reasons for those high scoring levels, as well as pondered how to increase scoring in today’s league. The most-accepted reasons are, for the most part, disappointingly unique for people looking to improve today’s offense: league expansion brought an influx of offensive talent (with the 1979 World Hockey Association-NHL merger, four teams were suddenly added to the 17-team league), goaltending equipment and techniques were sparse and out-of-date, and late 1960s/70s innovations (curved stick blades and offensive-focused defensemen) were elevating offensive production. While looking at the age distribution of NHLers, I found something that also could be included as an explanation.(more…)
It’s a common refrain among color commentators and hockey fans alike, noting when a player is or is not “showing up” for the playoffs. Numerous otherwise-HOF players have received the “playoff bust” label for simply not winning the Stanley Cup (despite the fact that a team’s path through the playoffs is fraught with randomness). Players like Alex Ovechkin and Joe Thornton have grappled with media narratives about their postseason futility for a long time, so I figured I would see if the data supports this argument, and what’s more if maybe there are some more-deserving players for these criticism — and what the heck, let’s find some true “playoff heroes” as well.