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Goaltenders find bigger rebounds can be better

Ability to get puck out of close-in danger fuels change in equipment, philosophy

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

It wasn't that long ago that a big rebound meant a bad rebound. That's no longer necessarily the case.

A one-timer from Edmonton Oilers defenseman Yohann Auvitu ricocheted off the pads of Florida Panthers goaltender James Reimer during a game Monday. After the puck bounced back high into the slot, the Edmonton broadcaster said the big rebound was a mistake.

Far from it, actually.

With Florida up by a goal and Edmonton goalie Cam Talbot pulled for an extra attacker, three players were crashing the net looking for a rebound of Auvitu's shot. Reimer's best option was to kick the rebound past that first wave of attacking forwards, so the big rebound went to teammate Jamie McGinn near the top of the face-off circle and, 11 seconds later, Vincent Trocheck scored into an empty net.

Video: FLA@EDM: Trocheck pots ENG to finish the hat trick

"There are guys 5-10 feet in front of you, and if you just leave a rebound right there you can get in trouble," Reimer said. "So you give it extra juice and your guys are on the other side."

A big rebound can sometimes be a good rebound, especially on a low shot. Equipment companies understand this and are developing leg pads to make those long rebounds easier to achieve.

The philosophy behind this change in thought is simple: A longer rebound gives a goalie more time to recover for a potential second shot, and a puck coming off the leg pad at a higher rate of speed at close range is more difficult for an opposing forward to bat back toward the net.

"The best way I can put it is, sometimes when you get a high shot on the blocker side you'll notice how sometimes the goalie purposely tries to punch it out further away rather than just try to make a save and the puck drops," Florida goalie Roberto Luongo said. "It's a bit of the same concept. The harder the pad, the further it will kick out and give you a little more time to recover."

That certainly doesn't mean bigger is always better when it comes to rebounds. The goal remains to completely control rebounds, ideally catching and cradling high shots and using his stick to steer low shots to teammates, into corners or over the glass.

"Obviously, the best rebound is the one not given," Reimer said. "So, if you can suck [the puck] in or keep it to yourself, that's the best. But sometimes you can't keep it in front of you, and with the gear now, when the shot is coming, if I can, I try to give it an extra boot and get it past that first wave. I think it has changed, you are trying to get more distance on [the rebound] now."

Video: FLA@VAN: Reimer shuts down Baertschi with pad save

Several equipment companies have responded to that change with new pad options that make it easier to achieve extra distance. Some NHL goalies still prefer softer, more flexible pads that allow them to actively determine how far to kick out a rebound, but others are switching to pads made with materials that produce a more active rebound.

Reimer's Bauer Supreme 2S Pro pads are the second generation of a line redesigned from scratch, using new materials and a new production process. Ironically, when Bauer started in 2012 with an experiment to change how goalie pads were built, the goal was to create a leg pad that dampened rebounds using new impact-absorbing foams.

When an early model produced more active rebounds, Bauer was worried. That is, until Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers tested those pads.

"The aha moment was Lundqvist saying he loved that rebounds were flying off," said Henry Breslin, a manager on Bauer's goal team at the time and now a Bauer pro rep. "His point was it would be nice to stick like Velcro, but if you can't do that, then further is better."

Video: NYR@MIN: Lundqvist makes awesome pad save on Cullen

Even the name of the five-layer skin on Bauer pads reflects that philosophical change: The first three letters of the C.O.R.TECH Skin stands for coefficient of restitution, a phrase golfers know well because it is used to measure how much spring they get on the face of a golf club. Rebounds come off the new pad 79 percent faster than their previous model, according to Bauer.

The core of Luongo's CCM Premier pad has been modified the past few seasons to produce more active rebounds. Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks wears the same pad.

"You don't want the puck to stop 5, 6 feet away from you," Crawford said. "You want it to kick out a little bit further away from you and you want to give yourself a chance to get over and get to the rebound. I definitely like a pad that is going to give me time to recover with those long rebounds instead of short ones."

The next time you see a big rebound in a game, don't assume it's a bad rebound. The goalies don't see it that way anymore.

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