There is every likelihood that the NHL will see one 50-goal scorer this year. That's rough, but we know that it's been tough to consistently hit 50 for most everyone but Ovechkin since 2006. We will also probably see only three 40-goal scorers this year, by the way. The league has become offensively defense-oriented despite the NHL's gentle nudges of the trapezoidal region, and let's face it: we can't always rely on Ovechkin's magic as he gets older and the league gets tougher.
The question is, what's changed? Many things, sure, but the league has been very clear about its desire to boost offense as much as possible. Why can't the NHL stave off the rapid scoring decline? Well, here are a couple of theories:
As the NHL has pushed fighters out of the game, coaches have found that fourth lines have more skill and can play more minutes. Among Stars regular forwards, Curtis McKenzie averages the fewest minutes per game at 11:38. He’s been used on top lines and played on the power play this season.
Same goes for Patrick Eaves, Shawn Horcoff and Vern Fiddler. Jamie Benn leads Stars forwards in time on ice at 19:53. There’s a lot less difference between top players and the role guys these days.
"You can look at any game and I don’t think you would be shocked if any of our forwards played on any of our lines," Spezza said. "I think we’re that balanced."
What’s more, the top players are being asked to play more of a two-way game.
The Stars rank in scoring at 3.05 goals per game. Coach Lindy Ruff has two scorers in the top 10 with Jamie Benn (72 points) and Tyler Seguin (69 points). He has also coaxed career-best offensive seasons out of Trevor Daley (16 goals), Cody Eakin (17 goals) and Fiddler (12 goals).
Yet Ruff agrees that the game is changing.
"I really do see how tough it is to score," he said. "Teams have found out that your best players have to defend, or you end up being a negative factor in the game."
And if your best players are better defenders, then everyone is playing defense all of the time.
It's no secret that the Stars need to join the club when it comes to stifling offense. (and hey, in a way, the NHL should be thankful for porous defenses like Dallas's has been for much of this season, right? I mean, don't blame us--we're handin' out goals all over the place!) But what's not such a secret is that everyone generally seems to agree that the Stars have to hop aboard the lockdown train, and that starts with the top players. Jamie Benn is already a fantastic penalty killer (who can also score shorthanded a bit), but if he and Tyler Seguin can continue leading the way to victory through both offense and defense, the Stars will likely follow the upward trend of the best teams in the NHL.
Is that a good thing? I don't think so--at least, for the league. The NFL doesn't market its best tacklers anywhere near as much as it does its offensive players, and there is a reason for that. The NBA has done everything possible to encourage scoring over defense because rebounds and shot suppression don't trigger booming drops from the courtside DJ. And in another offensively-stagnant game by the name of baseball, strikeouts and WebGems are nice, but I am told that home runs are kind of where it's at. If the NHL wants any kind of ratings boost, offense is going to have to lead the way. We're an impatient people, and we demand the goals. Will Gary Bettman finally stop diddling around with faceoff arrangements and overtime side-switching and find a way to give them to us?
*Cue my favorite commercial of all time*
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Just a reminder: here are the playoff odds. Never tell me the odds, but I can tell you the odds while they are technically not zero.
Does it mean Jamie Benn is really good if 72 points at this point of the season is "not a career year"? Yes. He and Kari Lehtonen have been really quite good since the All-Star Break, which hopefully portends good things for next season. [THN]
The Stars will have to repeat their response in British Columbia down the stretch if they want to have a chance at postseason hockey. [DMN]
How is Valeri Nichushkin doing in his stint in Cedar Park? Well, his English has certainly improved. [Wrong Side of the Red Line]
Well, don't say Jonathan Toews never did anything for us. The Chicago captain scored a goal with about half a buck remaining in a 3-3 tie with Winnipeg to lead Chicago to a crucial (for Dallas) regulation win over the Jets. [NHL]
Detroit and New York (Islanders) had an absolute barn-burner last night, but the Isles came away with a victory. If Florida doesn't pull off a miracle, I'm rooting for NYI in the East. [Lighthouse Hockey]
Kris Letang will be out indefinitely with a concussion, and Shane Doan won't face supplementary discipline. This is a really tough break for the Penguins during the home stretch of the season. [Puck Daddy]
Oh, look, the most absurd trade proposal I have seen in a long time. It involves Dallas winning the draft lottery and trading that top pick for Sidney Crosby. Oh, I'm sorry about that milk you just spit on your keyboard. Should have warned you. [THN]
Did you miss out on Alex Ovechkin, RGIII and Lionel Messi hanging out? It was neat. [Washington Post]
Brian Engblom took a puck to the head last night. I'm sure he kind of likes having a bit of a battle scar after not playing hockey for a while, though. [Pro Hockey Talk]
Finally, via Bob Sturm, I present a video of John Klingberg bamboozling Corey Perry in 2011: