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Brodeur, Lemaire no fans of trapezoid

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
The trapezoid marks the only space in which goaltenders can handle the puck behind the net.
The National Hockey League's general managers and assistant general managers are in Toronto through Wednesday for their annual meeting, and among the topics to be discussed is the "trapezoid."

Under the current rules instituted following the lockout, goaltenders are not allowed to play the puck outside the trapezoid when behind the net. The rule has prohibited goaltenders from handling pucks in the corners, making it more difficult for a defending team to exit the zone without a defenseman coming back to make a play.

Some have suggested the rule was designed to handicap Brodeur's exceptional stickhandling talents. Before the lockout, Brodeur could intercept opponent dump-ins and turn play the other way as seamlessly as a sixth skater.

But with cut-and-dry obstruction penalties for defending players who interfere with oncoming forecheckers, defensemen have been caught in vulnerable positions when they race behind the net to retrieve loose pucks. Goaltenders can only watch as the d-men try to avoid a bone-jarring collision.

"My view on it, it’s a no-brainer if they want to start eliminating these huge hits for defensemen," Brodeur said Tuesday. "Many times you’re able to just chip the puck and save a huge hit. When I was younger, whenever somebody (coming back) got a big hit, I felt guilty that I left him out to dry. Now I have to sit and watch all the time. It’s dangerous."

Brodeur believes more freedom for the goaltenders to handle the puck can lead to turnovers, and more scoring plays.

"I think If you give the liberty to goalies to play the puck, they’ll mess up more than they’ll be successful," he said. "You get them in the corner, and they’re not really comfortable, now there’s no more holding so that decision, you have to make it quicker. You give them the puck, that’ll create havoc sometimes. But it’s me, and I’m preaching for my own thing. For that one reason – for hitting – it would be safer. You have to find something because there’s too many guys getting hurt. And it’s not that they’re all dirty, it’s that guys are coming in with so much speed."

Head coach Jacques Lemaire agreed.

Rule 63.2
A goalkeeper shall not play the puck outside of the designated
area behind the net. Should the goalkeeper play the puck outside of the designated area behind the goal line, a minor penalty for delay of game shall be imposed. The determining factor shall be the position of the puck. The minor penalty will not be assessed when a goalkeeper plays the puck while maintaining skate contact with his goal crease.
"To me, it’s good and it’s a gamble having the goaltender come out (to handle the puck)," Lemaire said. "You have to play smart against them, and sometimes they screw up like other players. And people like it when they get scored against and there’s nobody in the net. Coach doesn’t like it."

One reporter suggested Tuesday that the NHL shouldn't legislate against skill.

"I don’t know first of all, why they put that in," Lemaire said. "They never put a rule against Gretzky because he was so great, or say, 'You can’t make more than five passes in a period. You can’t score more than two goals in a period.’"

Lemaire would like to see a crackdown on charging as way of protecting defensemen in prone positions.

"You want a faster game, you take the red line out," Lemaire explained. "All the interference that was in this game, they took it out, which is good. Now you take interference out, and the guys are free to go. Now you’re going to get the injuries because they’re free to go, which is normal. As far as I know, or as far as I’ve been in this game, there is a rule for charging. Where did that rule go? When was the last charging I’ve seen? Before, they say you take three steps and you get there. Now they start at the red line to go and hit a guy."

Yann Danis spent part of Tuesday's practice working on stickhandling drills with goaltending coach Chris Terreri.

"It's the weakest part of my game, so it's something that's good to practice," the Devils' backup said. "I think a lot of it has to do with confidence, and the more you practice it, the more you'll feel comfortable handling the puck."

Danis has an unorthodox stickhandling style: he positions his catching glove hand over the top of the stick, instead of underneath, and uses his knee as a fulcrum.

"It's just to get more power on the stick," he said. "I started doing that when I went pro. The goalie coach in Montreal (Rolie Melanson) showed me, and I tried it a few times. The first couple of times I couldn't shoot the puck at all. After a while I got used to it, and it's the only way. I get more power on the stick."

Eliminating the trapezoid would give goaltenders one less thing to be concerned about. Handling the puck outside the trapezoid behind the goal line results in a delay of game minor.

"A lot of times you worry about it; you worry, 'Is the puck going to cross the line, can I go play it?'" said Danis. "If they take it away, you won't have to think about it, you can just go out and play the puck."

Danis noted that an end to the trapezoid would benefit Brodeur, but added that the possibility of the rule change would not affect his current practice habits.

"I'm probably going to keep working on it anyway, but if they do change the rule on that, it's going to become a bigger part of the game," he said. "Obviously, it would be really important that I get better at it. It's good for the defensemen. If goalies are allowed to go out and play the puck, defensemen won't get run as much into the boards. Either way, I'll be working on it, but, for sure, if they take it away, it's going to become a bigger part of the game."

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