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Padded Down

by Jon Rosen / Los Angeles Kings

The size of goalie pads is being reduced, though when the subject is raised among those with ties to the state of affairs in the Kings’ net it’s not exactly treated as a drastic measure.

“I really don’t think the pad restrictions are going to generate that much more offense,” said Ben Scrivens.

It may not be instantly discernible from the 300-level, though for those fortunate to sit in close proximity to pucks that ricochet off Scrivens, Jonathan Quick and the visiting goaltenders at Staples Center, there may be actually now be a five hole where two pads previously had conjoined to form a nearly impenetrable wall along the ice.

Just don’t expect to wipe away a solitary tear as the size reduction leads to a scoring spike that evokes fond memories of offensive production associated with the era of the Smythe Division.

“I don’t think you’re ever going to get to the 7-6 and 8-7 scores that you saw in the past, regardless of what you do,” said Kim Dillabaugh, Goaltender Development.

Goalie pads will be reduced by 10% from the knee to thigh for the coming season, which will free up roughly two inches of space on each leg. This will not affect Scrivens or Jonathan Quick greatly. While it’s easy to read between the lines and assume that this maneuver is an attempt to loosen the offensive reins of a league that has experienced a decline in goal scoring for four consecutive years, it’s more of a sensible approach to curtail disproportionate pad length as a response to the question of “Does the equipment make a player better,” an issue raised at the GM Meetings in March by former King Mathieu Schneider, the special assistant to the executive director for the NHLPA.

“I think it’s…that the goalies have pushed the envelope as far as how they’re wearing their pads, more so than anything,” said Goaltending Coach Bill Ranford. “Using the skate blocks that keep the pad off the skate – it’s more aspects of that that they’re looking at, and I think guys have just crept up with taller and taller pads. I guess somewhat it has to do with the scoring aspect of it, but I think it’s just guys have just pushed the envelope way too much.”

Though there may be an adjustment in sealing up the coverage of the area between the knees and five-hole, it shouldn’t have any significant impact on the Kings goalies, neither of whom have been associated with disproportionate pad length or relying heavily on a drop-down butterfly technique. Scrivens is known more for the unique positioning of his glove, which is angled towards the ice and the direction that pucks are often approaching from.

“The puck comes up from the ice, so the angle it comes at is up so I want to face as much of the glove as possible perpendicular to that path,” he told Kevin Woodley of InGoal Magazine in May.

Dillabaugh has spoken with both goaltenders about the pad requirements, and doesn’t expect the changes to impact Quick, whose pads weren’t the ones targeted by the NHL and NHLPA’s Competition Committee. The changes were recently approved by the NHLPA.

“He’s never really added any additional length to the thigh portion or thigh board of his pads,” Dillabaugh said. “He’s always kind of done them more of a standard length where a lot of the guys get, say, a 34-inch pad with an inch added to the thigh rise.”

Scrivens, on the other hand, shortened his goaltending pads incrementally through the 2012-13 season, losing a half an inch to an inch off his pads at a time. Estimating to have used four or five sets of pads over the course of the season, he joked “I look like a genius now.”

“For me, I’m actually quite fortunate, because I’m not going to lose anything,” Scrivens said.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a hugely detrimental to guys this year. There might be a small learning period, but the guys who are playing are incredible athletes, and they’re good goaltenders, and they’re going to find ways to stop the puck regardless.”

The sentiments are reflected in Dillabaugh’s observation as well. Pad size will have little to do with the amount of goals allowed; instead, defensive structure, denying ample zone time and cohesion with a responsible forward group will have a far more impactful reach than the reduced pad size.

“I think if you create more opportunities to score by creating more quality scoring chances, your chances of increasing scoring are going to go up, obviously, and that’s more of a team play aspect,” Dillabaugh said. “You look at successful teams that have been through the playoffs – how many shots are blocked, how people play defensively from a team perspective and what they’re giving up, and how hard it is to get pucks to the net.”

That view is practically in lockstep with that of Scrivens’ and a good omen for a defensively attuned team like Los Angeles, which has ranked among the top-five stingiest teams in shots against per game in each of the last five seasons.

“Like, you can look at Team A, [which] gives up three and a half goals a game, and Team B is the best in the league, and they give up two and a half goals a game,” Scrivens hypothesized. “Is it the goaltender’s gear that [affects] goal differential, or is it the system that the team plays? Who’s looking at the goalie’s back door, and who has got the best penalty kill – all that sort of stuff – I think are bigger players in terms of generating and preventing offense than two inches or an inch off the top of a goaltender’s pads.”

The improvement in goaltending, attention to team defense and the evolution of hyper-structured play have all aided the Great Goal Reduction – with quality goaltending providing the greatest difference between today’s game and the state of the game in 1981-82, when teams combined for an average of 8.03 goals per game. Changes in equipment will have a negligible effect for many teams.

“Goaltenders these days, they’re just tremendous athletes,” Dillabaugh said. “The position has changed dramatically over the last 15, 20 years with what these guys do and how they train.”

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