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GMs pleased with greater scoring, quality of play

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- NHL general managers came to Florida at this time last year looking for clarity and consistency on goalie interference.

They got it when the decision was made to hand the final call on the coach's challenges to the league's hockey operations department instead of referees.

While there is no hot-button issue dominating discussion in 2019, there is still plenty to talk about. The GMs opened their meetings at the Boca Beach Club resort on Monday by going over numbers from this season to date -- ones that show scoring, even-strength goals and comebacks are up significantly.

"It seems like we're just about perfect," Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee said. "The game is in a really good place in terms of whatever you want to measure.

"It's just about as good as it's ever been, which is great news."

Through 1,015 games this season, teams combined to average 6.1 goals, just off the 2005-06 post-lockout scoring surge, while 77 percent of offense has come at even strength, the highest since 1977-78.

According to league data, scoring has risen 3 percent over last season at this stage, 10 percent when compared to 2016-17 and 13 percent against 2015-16.

Come-from-behind wins are also up -- 43 percent of teams that fall behind have managed to claw back for victories, with 12 percent responding from two goals down -- while 164 of 990 games (17 percent) have seen teams secure two points despite trailing in the third period.

Between 2005-06 and 2017-18, the NHL had an average of 28 players reach 30 goals. This season, 50 players are on pace to reach that mark.

The league also trumpeted its competitive balance, with 27 teams having changed positions in the standings since Jan. 1.

"It's fantastic," Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving said. "It's a highly entertaining product. At the end of the day, we're in the entertainment business."

The good vibes aren't stopping GMs from brainstorming for new ideas.

They broke out into smaller groups to discuss a variety of topics, including pucks crossing the goal line after the whistle, high-sticking infractions that warrant two- or four-minute penalties, goalies losing helmets during play and player safety.

"Anytime you can be proactive on things, that's obviously the best-case (scenario)," Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka said. "The group's done a really good job the last number of years getting out ahead of things."

Among the other issues touched on at the meetings set to run through Wednesday are referees being allowed see video on potential five-minute penalties prior to making a decision, and allowing on-ice officials to see replays of reviews initiated by the hockey operations department.

As it stands now, referees \see replays only on challenges via the tablet located at the timekeeper's bench.

"We asked the managers, 'Should they look at everything?'" said Colin Campbell, the league's executive vice president and director of hockey operations. "They're not making the decision, but they have to go out and explain what happened on a play and make the announcement, so maybe they should watch what they're going to talk about."