Yes the speeds are a lot faster than the "older" series (300/400/500).
I fly the -800 & -900 and I have a theory that the approach speed is more a function of body angle than stall speed (the normal criteria that dictates approach speed). By approaching faster, the pitch attitude is flatter and there is less likelihood of a tailstrike during the flare.
I note that the -900ER's are fitted with a number of aerodynamic improvements (slots, slats & flaps) as well as an extra tail skid to prevent fuselage damage in the event of a tailstrike.
As I say, just a theory and I could be wrong!
The Boeing 737 Technical Site