There seems to be an obsession with blocked shots out there in the world of hockey these days.
The pundits say that shot-blocking teams have snuffed offense right out of the playoffs and dulled down the game at the most important time of the year.
The courage and willingness to step in front of slap shots has always been a part of playoff hockey, and always will be. It was a giant part of the Caps upset of the second-seeded Bruins, and helped them push into the second round of the postseason.
The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers series certainly highlighted the art of throwing ones body in front of speeding pucks, and it was underscored when the Blueshirts blocked 26 shots in their 3-0 shutout win over the Devils in Game 1 of the conference finals.
There is no doubt its a factor, but there are also some myths slowly becoming fact as this years playoff run unfolds.
The stats through the regular season dont back up the shot-blocking complaints emanating from the four corners of the whining hockey world.
Eastern Conference teams are averaging 2.5 goals per game during this years playoffs in 40 games thus far and the final numbers could rise depending on the offensive output between the Rangers and the Devils in the conference finals.
Last year Eastern Conference teams averaged 2.74 goals per game during 41 playoff games prior to Boston ascending to the Stanley Cup Finals. Theres a slight drop in offense there, but nothing so dramatic that it could be starkly noticeable.
Hockey teams mimic other teams when they create successful formulas for winning, and the blocking shots by any means necessary hasnt truly borne that out.
Of the four teams left in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the New Jersey Devils (30th) and the Los Angeles (29th) Kings blocked the fewest shots in the NHL this season, and the Phoenix Coyotes ranked 19th in blocked shots during the season.
The Rangers are known as the shot-blocking kings on the hockey block, but they only finished seventh in the NHL in blocked shots this season. Five of the top shot-blocking teams in the NHL this season (Canadiens, Stars, Islanders, Oilers and Maple Leafs) didnt get a sniff of the postseason this year, and the San Jose Sharks were bounced in the first round after finishing second with 721 blocked shots during the regular season.
What do all of these numbers mean?
The number of voices grousing about the quality of game during the playoffs or decrying the decline of hockey civilization as we know it are overstating things quite a bit. There really isnt much difference from last years playoff run that seemed to electrify everyone with a highly entertaining Stanley Cup Finals.