x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

League officials rush in to halt scoring decline

One thing you can count on in sport, if scoring goes down, is that officials will come to the rescue to make sure the goal tally goes back up again. It's the National Hockey League's turn to take centre stage again.

San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, of Finland, stops a shot by the Vancouver Canucks during the second period of a National Hockey League hockey game on Thursday. Goaltenders could have a harder time on their hands this season as the NHL takes steps to increase scoring. Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo
San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, of Finland, stops a shot by the Vancouver Canucks during the second period of a National Hockey League hockey game on Thursday. Goaltenders could have a harder time on their hands this season as the NHL takes steps to increase scoring. Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo

One thing you can count on in sport, if scoring goes down, is that officials will come to the rescue to make sure the goal tally goes back up again.

National Hockey League, it is your turn again to take centre stage.

The league authorities acted to increase goal scoring after its lockout-lost 2004/05 season, largely by eliminating the two-line offside pass, and stepping up enforcement of interference and holding penalties.

During the past few years, defences adjusted to the new rules and scoring began to creep back down again.

What to do to rectify that? Make life tougher on goaltenders this season.

First, the length of goalie knee pads have been reduced slightly – by a couple of inches on each leg.

More importantly, the goal itself has been reconfigured. The opening in front remains the same size, but the depth from front to back has shrunk from 44 inches to 40. The shape of the bottom also has been tucked in a couple of inches.

The changes will give skaters more room to manoeuvre and pass the puck from behind the net and on the sides.

It will likely take a few months of regular-season play to see if forwards can take advantage of this new perk, and a few more months to see if defences can figure out a remedy.

Whatever happens, though, do not expect goalie pads or nets to ever get bigger again. Rule changes are a one-way street.

sports@thenational.ae