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Players have mixed reviews on NHL's new nets

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky smiled and said he didn't notice a difference.

Ryan Johansen and Jared Boll essentially said the same. Nick Foligno said he could tell right away that the nets used in practice during Training Camp presented by OhioHealth looked different than what he's used to.

The varying degree of responses from around the Blue Jackets locker room this week serves as evidence that at least one of the NHL's rule changes for 2013-14 is a relatively unknown concept - for now, anyway.

And no, the nets didn't get bigger. They just (sometimes) look that way. 

Earlier this year, the NHLPA and the NHL's Competition Committee agreed on a series of rule changes that would be implemented for the upcoming season. Among the changes is a hybrid icing rule that will be tested when the exhibition schedule begins this weekend - and if it's deemed to be effective and useful, there is a possibility it could be put into place full-time.

But the topic of "the new nets" is one that has come up often this week, and all it takes is one look at the newly-designed frame to see what people are talking about.

Gone is the traditional rounded "elbow" of the goal cage and now, replaced by a shorter angle according to the NHL, which gives the net a squared look.

The padding inside the apron of the net has also been trimmed, allowing officials a better look at pucks that may have approached or just crossed the goal line. The NHL thinks this change will allow for better efficiency in real-time goal calls and also in video reviews, which were sometimes hindered by thick padding inside the net.

It's been two days of practice with the new-look nets, and though there are multiple small changes, the one thing that some players mentioned is how they look to a shooter's eye.

"I think the biggest thing is that it looks like a bigger net, to be honest with you," Nick Foligno told "It's amazing with just the welding and how that makes a difference - it's not so contoured and it's more of a square net now. That makes a big difference and for good shooters, especially; it could be the difference to scoring three or four more goals."

Another notable change: the nets are now shallower, affording more space behind the net. Those quick plays - wraparounds, tuck chances, etc. - may be getting even quicker, but Foligno said it won't be a major adjustment because of how good NHL goaltenders are.

"That'll make for faster plays around the net, which will be pretty exciting," Foligno said. "That's going to make for more offense if you can master it. I'm sure we'll be keying in on that. Goalies are still really good, but when the net's empty you can tell the difference. It's more like a true net, I think."

But what about the goalies? Aren't they going to despise such a change? Not so fast.

"I think (the major difference) is just the little extra space behind the net – especially on those quick passes," Curtis McElhinney said. "I think that’s going to make a little bit of a difference giving the players a little extra room.

"Like anything, we’re going to get used to it. I guess that’s what we’re doing these days, adapting to the little changes to everything. I think it’ll be a beneficial one; it’s certainly going to make plays behind the net a little quicker and it’s going to open up a little more creativity for the players who can make those plays."

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