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Goals Are Way up in the NHL This Year: Is it a Trend or an Anomaly?

If you feel like there have been a ton of goals in the NHL so far this year, you’d be right. What’s all this talk about making the nets bigger, anyway? After just six days of action, the OVER/UNDER record for all NHL games is 20-9-7 and we’ve started to see books put a blanket total of 5.5 on all matchups. If this scoring keeps up, we could even see some sixes on the board.

Since 2006, the NHL’s average total goals per game has hovered between 5.30 and 5.70 but through just under a week this year, the average has made a massive jump to 6.5. No major changes were made to the rulebook in the offseason, the nets are the same size and goalies have not started wearing smaller equipment. So the questions to ask here are why is scoring up by more than a goal per game? Will this trend keep up? And most importantly, how do we profit off this trend now and going forward?

Looking backward again, the average of 6.5 goals scored per game this year is actually the most since 1993, when the average for the whole season was 6.5 – down from 7.25 the previous year. It seems weird that the league average has jumped by so much with no fundamental changes to the game and what it really suggests is that this trend probably won’t last.

The public has been crying for more goals for years and the NHL’s ratings were absolute garbage last year. My theory is that the league has leveraged its higher-scoring matchups toward the beginning of the season to generate a little bit of extra interest and after the shameless marketing stunt that was the World Cup of Hockey, I don’t think that it's too much of a conspiracy theory.

This is not the first time teams have come out of the gate flying. In 2010, the O/U record for all games after 36 matchups was 22-14 and the goals per game average was 6.33. Additionally, in all but one year since 2008, the average total goals per game through 36 games was higher than the average at the end of the season. Make no mistake here, this trend is going to level off, it’s just a matter of when.

NHL goalies right now are combining for an .898 save percentage. That’s the lowest since the 1995-96 season and is the No. 1 identifier that the total goals per game average can only come down. Since 2005-06 the average NHL save percentage has gone up almost every year and reached its peak last year at .915. Save percentages dropping a full 1.7 percent for no reason is not sustainable. The guys in the crease will figure it out, trust me.

My suggestion for right now would be to hammer OVERs. The definition of insanity is to do something over and over again and expect different results so taking an UNDER right now when they’re hitting at just 25 percent might just land you a spot in the nuthouse. That said, blindly taking OVERs is not the way to go either. Pick your spots, look at the goalie matchups and when totals start going to six, or the average levels off, just be a little more cautious.

I for one hope this isn’t a crazy anomaly because the puck so far this year has been wildly entertaining and no one wants to bet UNDERs. That's just a pipe dream as I fear this trend is on the clock – take advantage while you still can.

NHL OVER/UNDERs Through 36 total Games Since 2006
YearO/U RecordAverage Total GPG