SUN Hockey Pool

Lemaire changes tune

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

You know the National Hockey League has undergone a fundamental change when Jacques Lemaire sings its praises.

The Mad Trapper, who complained about shootouts lack of red lines and too much open ice in training camp, endorsed the change in NHL philosophy this week. His once conservative Minnesota Wild were tied for first in goals with 27 yesterday, as the league released statistics to underline how much scoring has flourished.

"I look at games, and this is great hockey," Lemaire told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "Better than I've ever seen. You get excitement. You get everything."

"The games I've watched have been exciting," San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told the Associated Press. "You can see the fans enjoying it. The new rules really encourage fast, fundamental play and punish mediocrity. That's what you want to see as a player."

Here are highlights of the league's release as it passed the 100-game mark last night.

- Teams have scored 602 goals, an average of 6.2 compared to 4.7 in the first 97 games of 2003-04.

- There have been 15 go-ahead goals within the last five minutes of regulation, more than double '03-04.

- Overtime or shootouts have settled nine of 19 games this year after 13 of 18 games in '03-04 ended in a draw.

- In special teams situations, power-play advantages are up to 1,282 from 1,004 and power-play goals up 53, to 216 . There also have been 33% more shorthanded goals, from 18 to 24.

- There were nine shutouts, a decline from 23.

- Only seven clubs have suffered a drop in attendance, the rest holding steady or ahead of 2003-04 figures. The leaders include Tampa Bay (+30%), Florida (+26%), Calgary (+23%), Atlanta (+21%), Nashville (+17%) and Phoenix (+13%).


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