Blackhawks notebook: Jimmy Waite offers theory for NHL’s scoring increase

The league’s 6.4 goals-per-game average is at its highest since 1994, and its .904 save percentage is at its lowest since 2006. More tips and deflections might partly explain those trends.

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The Islanders screen a shot against Blackhawks goalie Arvid Soderblom on Sunday.

NHL teams are tipping and deflecting more shots than they used to, creating challenges for goaltenders.

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP

NEWARK, N.J. — The NHL’s scoring explosion isn’t slowing down.

Entering play Tuesday, the combined goals-per-game average sat at 6.4, marking a new high-water mark since 1993-94 and continuing a steady rise in the last half-decade.

Post-lockout scoring bottomed out in 2015-16, when teams averaged a combined 5.4 goals per game. By last season, the average had risen to 6.3.

Interestingly, the NHL’s shots-per-game average — 62.8 this season — has held roughly steady since 2017-18. Instead, players simply are getting more efficient with their shots — or perhaps goaltenders are getting worse. The leaguewide save percentage is .904 this season, down from a peak of .915 in 2015-16.

So who better than Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite to offer an explanation? He wasn’t aware of the trend beforehand, but he quickly offered a theory.

‘‘More guys are going to the net,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s the name of the game: screens [and] tips. Those are hard to defend. If you don’t see the puck, it’s hard to stop. It’s more that style of hockey now: deflections [and] rebounds. Because one-on-one, unless you’re wide-open, it’s hard to beat a goalie. So everybody understands you have to crash the net to score more.’’

Digging deeper, 7.7% of shots on goal this season have been tips or deflections (4.8 per game), up from 6% (3.5 per game) in 2015-16.

Goalies have improved slightly at stopping them — the tip-and-deflection save percentage has increased from .813 to .841 — but not enough to cancel out the additional volume. That’s something Waite works on with his Hawks pupils.

‘‘If you don’t see the puck, you have to get hit by it,’’ Waite said. ‘‘If you see a bunch of bodies on one side of the net and you don’t see the puck, then maybe you cheat toward the other side because this is what the shooter sees. Those are reads I want the goalie to make: Try to find the puck, but if you don’t see it, try to figure out where it’s going to go.’’

As far as other shot types, wrist and snap shots now account for 72.1% of shots on goal, up from 66.7%; slap shots are down from 18.1% to 11.6%; backhand shots are down from 8.1% to 7.7%; and wraparounds are down from 1.1% to 0.9%.

Stauber’s whirlwind

Hawks prospect goalie Jaxson Stauber, 23, had just stopped 28 of 30 shots in Rockford’s 3-2 road victory Saturday against Hartford when IceHogs general manager Mark Bernard interrupted his postgame meal to tell him he had been called up to the NHL.

On Sunday, Stauber hitched a ride to Long Island with Bernard’s friend, arriving around 1:30 p.m. A few hours later, he sat on the Hawks’ bench, backing up Arvid Soderblom against the Islanders.

‘‘As you can imagine, it was a bit hectic,’’ Stauber said. ‘‘But once I got there, the guys and staff were great, making me feel comfortable and getting me settled in. Once you’re there, you’re in your zone [and] doing your pregame preparations, just like any other game.’’

Stauber might or might not get into a game during this stretch in which Petr Mrazek is sidelined, but his presence alone is exciting for the Hawks.

‘‘A guy here for the first time, that’s fun to see and enjoy,’’ coach Luke Richardson said. ‘‘Maybe it makes the other guys reflect on their first time. Time goes by fast, so you have to make sure you take advantage of every opportunity.’’

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