Measuring stick

GARY LOEWEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

It might be time to shrink the goalie pads again.

The NHL achieved its goal -- of getting more goals -- during the first month as production was up 25% over the ultra-defensive 2003-04 season.

But since the end of October, despite the Maple Leafs' best efforts of late, offence in the NHL has been backsliding a bit.

There is no reason for alarm -- it would be premature to suggest that goalies be limited to using Christmas catalogues for leg pads -- but it appears that players are adjusting to the obstruction rules and finding other ways to stop attackers.

Shots, penalties and power-play goals also have slipped from the highs of October.

Through games of Oct. 30 -- 14% of the schedule -- the NHL was averaging 6.42 goals a game. That was a substantial improvement on the 2003-04 average of 5.14.

But in recent weeks, we've seen more 2-1 and 3-2 games and, as of Dec. 18, the goals-a-game average had slipped to 6.23 for the season.

Power-play opportunities are down from 13.3 a game on average to 12.4 and, overall, there seem to be fewer blowout games -- again, Leafs aside. The Ottawa Senators, for instance, had 58 goals through their first 12 games (an average of almost five), and 74 goals through their next 18 (just over four a game.)

While 20 players had hat-tricks during November, there have been only four this month (as of Dec. 18).

As for potential 50-goal scorers, there were 13 on that pace as of Oct. 30, including Jaromir Jagr on track for 70, but only six as of Dec. 18.

It seems players aren't shooting with as much accuracy, either -- undoubtedly a credit to better defence. On Oct. 30, 14 players had shooting percentages of 25% or better, led by Pavel Datsyuk at 30.4%. As of Dec. 18, only two were at the level -- Nathan Horton, 26.7% and Petr Prucha, 25%. Datsyuk was at 20.6%.

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GOALS PER GAME

1985-86: 7.90

1995-96: 6.00

2001-02: 5.07

2003-04: 5.14

Oct. 30: 6.42

Dec. 18: 6.23

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POWER-PLAY GOALS PER GAME

1985-86: 2.0

1995-96: 1.8

2001-02: 1.3

2003-04: 1.4

Oct. 30: 2.4

Dec. 18: 2.1

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100-POINT SCORERS

1985-86: 13

1995-96: 12

2001-02: 0

2003-04: 0

Oct. 30: 20

Dec. 18: 11

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SHOTS PER GAME

1985-86: 62.1

1995-96: 60.5

2001-02: 56.1

2003-04: 56.1

Oct. 30: 66.0

Dec. 18: 59.7

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50-GOAL SCORERS

1985-86: 6

1995-96: 8

2001-02: 1

2003-04: 0

Oct. 30: 13

Dec. 18: 6


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