The NHL is all about more goals and more offense.
That doesn’t exactly have goaltenders jumping for joy.
Nevertheless, the NHL instituted a bevy of new rules to help boost offense. Many are geared to the skaters’ play, but a few directly involve the netminders. Goaltender equipment dimensions are reduced by approximately 11 percent. In addition to a one-inch reduction (to 11 inches) in the width of leg pads, the blocking glove, upper-body protector, pants and jersey are reduced in size as well.
Also, goaltenders may play the puck behind the goal line only in a trapezoid-shaped area defined by lines that begin six feet from either goal post and extend diagonally to points 28 feet apart at the end boards.
So far, all five goaltenders in Penguins training camp – Jocelyn Thibault, Marc-Andre Fleury, Sebastien Caron, Andy Chiodo and Dany Sabourin – have had little trouble adjusting.
“There is a difference but I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal. I have been using the new equipment since the summer,” Thibault said. “I got used to it pretty well. It will be different, but we’re all on the same playing field.”
Said Chiodo: “It’s not major. It’s there, but I don’t think it’s the type of adjustment that is going to make or break you. It takes a little getting used to, but like anything else, you adjust.
“You always want to make saves in the middle of your equipment, so hopefully that extra inch won’t matter.”
Caron said he hasn’t really noticed a difference.
“I look at the other goalies and basically you don’t even know if they have different pads,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a big problem.”
Fleury has noticed a slight change.
“Actually, in the beginning when I first started playing with the pads, I could feel a little smaller. Right now, it’s not too bad. I am used to it,” he said. “Just sometimes I can tell when a shot hits me on the end of the pads and I think, ‘Ah! I wish I had a little more padding.’ I think I feel maybe a little smaller. I just try to go out a little farther (to challenge shooters).”
While reducing the thickness of the leg pads of an inch gives shooters slightly more net at which to shoot, it makes goalies’ lateral movement a little quicker.
“One thing I have noticed, it’s going to help me a little bit,” Thibault said. “I feel like I am little quicker with thinner pads and smaller gloves.”
Caron, who is listed at 6-foot-1, believes the smaller pads will affect taller goalies more than compact goalies like Thibault (5-11), Chiodo (5-11) and himself.
“Maybe the worst part is going to be for someone like Garth Snow or Roberto Luongo or someone like that who is real tall and big,” he said. “It’s going to cut a couple inches off their pads and it might look weird. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s going to be a big problem for us.”
However, Sabourin, who is a lanky 6-2, hasn’t had any problems.
“For myself, it wasn’t a big difference. I practiced with it two months in advance (of camp),” he said. “I didn’t feel the difference on the ice with the movement. Maybe when the players shoot, when they look at us, maybe we look a little smaller. But, for myself, I don’t see a difference.”
Likewise Fleury, who is 6-2, has not had a problem as he indicated earlier.
“At first, I was a little worried how it’d feel,” he said. “But, it’s turned out pretty good.”
In terms of the restrictions puck play behind the end line, Chiodo doesn’t believe it will alter the style of many goaltenders.
“You don’t want to be caught in the corner too many times anyway,” he said. “It’s tough if the puck stops though. You just want to get a good read on the puck before it comes into our zone. I played with that in the American (Hockey) League last year and it was something I got used to.
“I think goaltenders will adjust. You have to be able to just as an athlete.”