Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Scoring, power-play chances on the wane

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PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- Scoring is down again this season in the NHL and there's a sense in many cities, including this one, that power-play chances are on the decline as well.

Since 2008-09, when NHL teams averaged a combined 5.83 goals per game, scoring has dropped each season.

In 2011-12, it's down to less than five and a half per night, now at 5.47 per game.

The two teams that play today at Consol Energy Center, the Winnipeg Jets and Pittsburgh Penguins, have noticed a reduction in power-play chances.

The Pens have had 2.76 opportunities per game since 2012 began, the Jets 2.67.

"I can only say that for me, the refereeing has been different this year than I've seen from the past," Jets coach Claude Noel said. Friday. "I'm not saying it's good or bad.

"I'm just saying it's been different than what I've seen. I was three years in Columbus. I wasn't the head coach then, but I watched the games just as closely and I was involved in the power play.

"I will say that normally the way it goes as the season wears on, when it comes to January or February, you're not getting chances much any more. Games are too important. You have to play with discipline and you have to be able to keep your opponent off the power play, otherwise it could be the difference."

Trend

That trend is certainly evident, and it's not all a bad thing for the Jets.

Once the NHL's most short-handed team, and the team with the biggest deficit of power-play time versus penalty-killing time, Winnipeg has done a decent job since mid-season of reducing that vulnerability and no longer holds the distinction in either category.

The Jets have not given an opponent five power plays in a game in 2012, after setting them up for that many 14 times in the season's first 38 games.

"Jacques Lemaire, when you played his teams in Minnesota, they might give you two power plays, from October right through," Noel said. "They never found a way to beat themselves.

"Coaches are picked onto that. Anything that coaches can grab onto, we're just thieves."

Still, the chances are reduced on both sides of the coin.

"I'm not sure I'm seeing the same levels of calls I've seen," Noel reiterated.

"They've changed a bit there. It is just me or our games? I don't have numbers. It's just in a general sense. I think the referees do a good job but to me it just seems way different."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 11, 2012 C3

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