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November-29-2003,
Scott Hartnell Missed the Point...By Statman

The other night Nashville Predators won a game (interesting), scored an overtime goal (unbelievable), and Scott Hartnell was the shooter, his first game winner of the season (Let`s have a parade!).

After the game Hartnell prattled about the importance of power plays, can`t win without one, can`t win in the play-offs, gotta keep it simple, etc. He added a couple of `obviously`s` and a `hopefully,` plus more yakkity-yak until the sharp-as-tacks Nashville reporter had enough with which to build a column around.

Every coach and player can sling together a long line of clichéconcerning power plays, each forgetting Anaheim went to game seven of the Cup final last spring with an odd-man unit as useless as a wishing well.

Let`s construct a useful little table which might help us determine if Hartnell was indeed prattling or if he was on to something. The `G/game` column is goals per game and `percent` refers to power play goals as a percentage of total goals. `Rate` is the power play conversion rate, based on chances with the odd man, and `SHG` is short-handed goals. YEAR GAMES GOALS G/GAME PP GOALS PERCENT RATE SHGs 96-97 1066 6216 5.8 1442 23.1 16.3 266 97-98 1066 5624 5.3 1491 26.5 15.1 260 98-99 1107 5830 5.3 1533 26.2 15.8 220 99-00 1148 6306 5.5 1496 23.7 16.2 216 00-01 1230 6782 5.5 1877 27.6 16.6 est. 267 01-02 1230 6442 5.2 1601 24.8 15.8 220 02-03 1230 6530 5.3 1787 27.3 16.4 230 03-04 321 1626 5.07 493 30.3 16.8 62

Looking at column seven (Rate) we can see that power play conversions have remained in a range of 15.8% to 16.4%. The 97-98 season was abnormally low and this season is starting out higher than the range. So, using Hartnell`s remarks, he is wrong. The percentages have been stable six of the past seven years.

However, Hartnell does have a point if he had been considering power play goals as a percentage of total goals, which is unlikely. But it is true: this season power play goals have exceeded 30% as a proportion of total goals. Excluding the 01-02 season, power play goals have increased in significance three of the past four years.

Since the 96-97 schedule of 1066 games, scoring has remained pretty much stagnant, meaning that the league plays 1230 games now, or about 12% more, yet goal scoring in 02-03 is up 314 over 96-97 (6530 vs 6216). Goals/game over the same period has dropped from 5.8 goals/game to this year`s 5.07 after 321 games.

This season`s 5.07 goals scored is lousy but 5.8 is crap. In the 84-85 season of 840 games, the league produced 6531 goals, more than any year on the table. The percentage was a phenomenal 7.78 goals/game. Toronto Maple Leafs, that season`s worst team, pounded in 253 goals, a total which would have been tied for fourth best last season.

So why the drop off? There are the usual suspects: the trap, equipment, outdated rules, and so forth. But another guilty party might have been expansion. Weak teams play the trap, things snowball, you get the drift.

In a round about way our table could be an argument in favour of torpedo-ing a number of franchises.

Watching games with nearly eight goals every game is fantastic. Too bad newer fans have never seen games like that.



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