5-2, 6-1, 4-2, 4-3, 7-4 and 5-4.
Those are the scores of New Jersey’s six games since the Olympic break — four wins, two losses and an average of 7.8 goals per game.
While it’s hardly the halcyon, high-scoring games of the 80s, it is a pretty noteworthy development given, 1) last year, teams combined for an average of 5.3 goals per game, and 2) New Jersey has long been known as one of the NHL’s most defensive teams.
According to Adam Henrique — the NHL’s reigning third star of the week — the uptick in goals is a direct result from a change in philosophy, strategy and approach.
“We kind of talked coming off the break about ways we can get more offense,” Henrique explained, per the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
“We have to keep scoring goals. We have to keep playing this way.”
The six games are obviously a small sample size, but do suggest a change is in the works. New Jersey scored just eight goals in its six games heading into the Olympic break and, according to the Star-Ledger, averaged just 2.29 goals per game over the first 59 games of the year.
What’s interesting is that the increased scoring hasn’t come from a huge increase in shots. New Jersey is certainly directing more pucks on goal lately — remember, this is a team that only mustered eleven in a December loss to Detroit — but it’s not like a barrage of pucks. The Devils failed to crack 30 shots in three of the six games, though they did put up 35 against the Jackets and Isles.
So where is the offense coming from? Quite simply, the exchange of scoring chances. Unlike past Devils teams, this current incarnation seems to be open to the idea of, uh, playing open.
Not that they want to make a habit of it. Cory Schneider was lit up for seven goals on a modest 33 shots against the Red Wings last week, and didn’t really let in a bad one. Detroit just had a bunch of good scoring chances — something the Devils say needs to stop.
“We’re scoring, but we’re giving up too much through the neutral zone. That’s usually our bread and butter,” Ryane Clowe explained. “We’re giving teams too much room to make plays over the blue line, going lateral and pulling up the lane.
“Sometimes we’re over-committing. We’re probably a little bit hungry to get in there and get an opportunity. Sometimes you have to take your licks and back out.”