Carolina Hurricanes

Canes, NHL look for ways to score more goals

The Canes’ Victor Rask (49) is defended by the Wild's Ryan Suter (20) and goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) during the third period at PNC Arena in Raleigh.
The Canes’ Victor Rask (49) is defended by the Wild's Ryan Suter (20) and goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) during the third period at PNC Arena in Raleigh. cseward@newsobserver.com

Defenseman Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes ripped six straight shots into the net Thursday at PNC Arena.

Oh, if it was just that easy in games.

Then again, Faulk was shooting at an empty net, with no goalie, during practice.

“That would make it much easier,” Faulk later joked.

But putting pucks in the net in the NHL is a difficult thing – for the Canes, for many teams. Scoring in the league continues a downward trend, and many are weighing in with ideas of how to generate more offensive chances and get more goals into the game.

Toronto coach Mike Babcock, whose Maple Leafs face the Canes on Friday at PNC Arena, says goaltenders have become too big and that the net size needs to reflect that by being bigger, as well.

Others say goaltender equipment needs to shrink, that too much of the net is being covered by those big guys in large, thick pads.

Canes forward Kris Versteeg would prefer a bigger rink – not quite the size of the larger European rinks, but bigger.

“I think two to three feet on each boards would give the skill guys off the rush a little bit more time,” Versteeg said Thursday. “You could have another split-second to make the pass cross ice. It would open up a lot more plays and keep plays alive a little more in the zone.

“The ice needs to be bigger because guys are too big and too strong, and too good a shot blockers, too. The ice is so small and they’re always in the middle of the ice anyway. With the ice bigger, it forces guys to handle the puck more and you could get more skilled guys back in the game, too.”

Versteeg smiled, adding, “You know that will probably never happen because it would take out some seats.”

Much of the focus of late has been on the goaltenders and their equipment – and not just by Babcock.

According to hockey-reference.com, the NHL scoring average per team was 4.01 goals a game in the 1981-82 season, when Wayne Gretzky had 92 goals. Teams are scoring 2.68 goals per game this season through Wednesday’s games, a dip from 2.73 goals last season.

Goalie Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild is 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds. With his wide wingspan, he’s like a condor with a goalie mask.

Dubnyk, like many goalies, is against enlarging the size of the nets, now six feet wide and four feet in height.

“I think if you asked any goalie our position is based off angles and we have to know where our net is at all times in different situations,” he said. “If you start changing that you change everything we’ve ingrained in our body, and then you’ve got to go out and play the game. That should be the very, very last resort.”

Dubnyk, however, said equipment size should be “open to conversation” as long as goalies remain well-protected. He said pants could be customized to fit the size of each goalie’s legs and hips.

“At the same time, I think a 1-0 game can be a pretty exciting game,” he said. “So it’s a constant fight.”

According to hockey-reference.com, the NHL scoring average per team was 4.01 goals a game in the 1981-82 season, when Wayne Gretzky had 92 goals. Teams are scoring 2.68 goals per game this season through Wednesday’s games, a dip from 2.73 goals last season.

Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars has scored 37 goals each of the past two seasons and is among the league leaders this year with 11. Often matched against the other team’s best defensemen, he said teams pay more attention to him in the offensive zone and noted players have become proficient in blocking shots.

If Seguin does get a good offensive look, he could be facing a Dubnyk or 6-foot-7 Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“The goalies are just so good and quick at the position and know when to challenge the puck,” Seguin said. “It’s not easy scoring goals in this league anymore. You’ve definitely seen scoring go down. Every team is well-structured and every goalie is a good NHL goalie.”

Asked if he’d be in favor of enlarging the net size, Seguin deadpanned, “I wouldn’t be against it.”

That’s a forward’s perspective. Faulk doesn’t like the idea, saying it would be a “drastic change.”

“It would change more than goal-scoring,” he said. “It changes D-zone coverage, even skating around the net.”

Canes goalie Eddie Lack, who is 6-4, said he’d withhold his opinion on the subject but had a cautionary note about changes.

“I think the goalies will adjust,” he said. “And we keep getting better.”

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip

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