The storylines are the same almost everywhere you look around the league. The Rangers need more scoring. Blue Jackets hope to increase offense. Bruins need to improve power play.
That desire to light the lamp with greater frequency isn’t an isolated issue. Scoring has steadily decreased since the 2004-05 lockout, and while there’s little that can be done about the root causes — stringent attention to defense and goalies who are bigger and better trained than ever — that hasn’t stopped the NHL from trying to solve the problem anyway.
In his cover story for this week’s NHL preview issue of SI magazine, Michael Farber visits with Kay Whitmore, the NHL’s “goalie cop” who is spearheading the effort to cut netminders down to size. The league has imposed a new series of restrictions on the size of goalie equipment for this season, shortening leg pads by about two inches (depending on the height of the goalie). This, in theory, creates a five-hole that’s about four inches wider when a keeper drops to his knees in the butterfly position. Most will quickly close it, but even a split-second opening could lead to some pucks slipping through that would easily have been blocked in the past.
There’s also a reformatted net that’s shallower — creating more space behind the net for playmaking and allowing for quicker wraparound opportunities — and with different corners that create new angles for shooters to exploit.
They’re both good ideas, and should pay off with bigger numbers for traditional sharpshooters like Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.
But those guys were always going to put up their share of points. That means teams will be looking within for something extra from players who are ready to step up and handle a bigger share of the load.
Here are some of the guys who could be up to the task.