Not counting the lockout-shortened 2013 season, the last time there was no 100-point man or 50-goal scorer in the NHL was 2003-04.
That year, Martin St. Louis won the Art Ross Trophy with 94 points and three players — Rick Nash, Ilya Kovalchuk and Jarome Iginla — shared the Rocket Richard Trophy with 41 goals. It was statistically the deadest season of the so-called Dead Puck Era.
There would be no hockey in 2004-05 due to a lockout. When the league returned to action, goal-scoring rose to levels not seen in a decade, largely because power plays skyrocketed due to a crackdown on obstruction.
But scoring has since fallen to around 2003-04 levels. And in 2015-16, it’s possible once again that there will be no 100-point man or 50-goal scorer. Patrick Kane has 94 points with five games to go. Alex Ovechkin has 44 goals with six games left.
This time, the crackdown is expected to involve the goaltenders’ equipment. What effect that has remains to be seen, but it’s no wonder the netminders have been targeted. The average save percentage is currently .915. Thirty years ago, it was .873. Ten years ago, it was. 901.
Many, of course, are happy with the game as it is. Last night in Philadelphia, there were only two goals scored between the Flyers and Capitals, but fans hardly got shortchanged. There were 64 shots combined and all sorts of scoring chances. Not to mention the intensity. There was plenty of that. Later on, the Ducks and Flames would combine for a rare 11 goals. But it wasn’t a great game. It was an 8-3 blowout.
Others would like to see more goals, more lead changes. It’s been said that 6-5 is the best score in hockey. In the 1987 Canada Cup finals between Canada and the Soviet Union, all three games were decided by that score. In Game 3, Canada overcame a 3-0 deficit to win, as Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux teaming up for one of the most famous goals in international history:
It’s probably never going to be like that again. The goaltenders are too good, the coaching too detailed. There would have to be dramatic rule changes. Or bigger nets. Mike Babcock’s an advocate of the latter, but to this point he remains in the minority.