At the start of each new NHL season, the powers that be identify areas of the rulebook that they feel officials could do a better job enforcing. Then, they attempt to stage a crackdown. In the past, hooking, holding and slashing have been the targets. Oh, and we can't forget about faceoff violations. This season, the league has set its sights on cross-checking, and so far, they aren't messing around.
As you can see in the first graphic, officials are calling a lot more cross-checking penalties this season (about triple the normal rate). However, as the next graphic will illustrate, minor penalty rates are usually much higher at the start of the season. In other words, there doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary going on here. Thanks to Cole Anderson over at Range Hockey for the awesome graphics.
From a betting perspective, this phenomena is obviously something to be cognizant of, but it's best to take the good with the bad. Like scoring rates, I don't think it's a good idea to overreact to how many penalties (or what type) are being called in a small sample. It's not like games have been going over the total more often, either. In fact, it's been quite the opposite, as teams have combined to score five or fewer goals 54 percent of the time.