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How To Stop The Shot-Blocking

from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,

In the mid-1990s, during the NHL’s original dead-puck era, former coach and general manager Pierre Pagé floated a unique idea that may have merit again as scoring shrinks and the game has turned into an exercise in shot-blocking, where the majority of goals are scored on ricochets, deflections or other happenstance.

What’s on display in these playoffs isn’t hockey, it’s pinball.

Seeking a way to enhance offence, Pagé proposed that the NHL introduce a modified version of basketball’s three-in-the-key rule. The rule states that an offensive player shall not remain in the key for more than three seconds. Pagé’s application to hockey would affect both offensive and defensive players, with the primary goal to keep the area in front of the net unclogged.

It’s an idea worth considering, given how established the shot-blocking trend is today. Teams all collapse back toward the goal, with every player instructed to get in front of shots, even if they happen to screen the goaltenders. Under the Pagé plan, hockey could create a zone in front of the goaltender that perhaps only three, or even two, players a team could enter at the same time.

continued

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Comments

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I’ve got a suggestion:

*#$%@& off and just let them play hockey.

Posted by Garth on 05/09/12 at 11:58 PM ET

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Garth u are the people that Bob Costas and Al Michaels talk about when they say that fans or whatever u are go way to far in expressing your small minded responses.

Posted by wan8iv from Calistoga on 05/10/12 at 12:18 AM ET

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LOL @ Garth—-what a maroon!

Posted by Tommy from Louisville on 05/10/12 at 12:20 AM ET

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I gotta agree with Garth here.

This shot blocking thing hasnt worked out so well the last couple nights anyway.  Goals off of defenders, and off of loose pucks thrown towards the net.

But for the sake of argument.  If you gotta change something:

Why not just make the Ice bigger?

dont need to change any rules, or draw more lines.  More room to make plays, Harder to block all the passing and shooting lanes, and lots of disadvantages for a team that just tries to collapse around their net and not let any pucks through.

Posted by jwad on 05/10/12 at 12:37 AM ET

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How about shrinkning the goalie gear back to a resonable level. The league keeps changing rules and adding lines and expanding zones to create more offense, but ignores the most basic problem with scoring. The goalies are too damn big. Shot blockin doesnt let goalies have 930 sv %. Just give shooters something to shoot at and dont say coaches will find a way to stop it. What more can they do? They already use the whole team to stand practicaly in the net. And still a team finds a way to get pucks to the net.

Posted by patrick oneill from yonkers ny on 05/10/12 at 12:41 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Boy that’s a pretty big fundamental change to how hockey is played.  Are we talking about blowing a play dead and having an in/out-of-zone faceoff depending on which side is the offender? I wish I knew, but the article doesn’t even begin to attempt to discuss enforcement.

Do they go crazy and make it a two-minute penalty?

I’m guessing the back linesman is responsible for catching these infractions?  So this is one more thing for the officials to miss or one more thing for them to be watching too closely while they miss obstruction/hooking.

I like the concept of keeping “the key” clear, but I don’t think there’s a way to pass a rule to create that which doesn’t suck. Either you create more whistles or too many stupid penalties.

I mean, if it counts as an offsides, then any team where a defender breaks a stick should automatically break this rule to get a whistle. It may lead to a defensive zone faceoff (perhaps one where the players can’t change), but that’s preferable to having a player without a stick and the 20 seconds it takes to drop the puck after a whistle is a better breather than having to constantly chase.

Or… you make it two minutes for a team violating the rule and watch people go even more nuts than they do about the puck-over-glass rule.

I’m in favor of going to full-time 4-on-4 before going to this rule and I’m still not in favor of that.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/10/12 at 12:47 AM ET

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What an unbelievably fuc*ing stupid suggestion.

Posted by godblender on 05/10/12 at 01:33 AM ET

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Minnesota had the lowest goals for total for the last season and still averaged just over 2 goals a game.  So tell me, is scoring really an issue in today’s NHL?
Give me a break.  This is just yet another useless piece of drivel from Duhatschek.

Posted by Spencer on 05/10/12 at 01:56 AM ET

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Much more elegant solution would be to make it a two minute penalty to leave your feet to block a shot.  Problem solved. No complicated rules for the refs.

Posted by Lapuck on 05/10/12 at 02:09 AM ET

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Easier way to get rid of shotblocking than to create more bizarre circles and trapezoids is to make guys wear Craig Muni’s shot-blocking pads. He used to stuff catalogs in there because they were so flimsy and shot-blocking so painful.

Don’t think the union would go for that though.

Cat’s out of the bag, there’s nothing to be done to stop shot-blocking at this point. Tortorella didn’t used to coach that (neither did Hunter, really), they just wised up to what works.

Posted by larry from pitt on 05/10/12 at 02:13 AM ET

NIVO's avatar

The refs have enough trouble getting calls right on the ice with all the action going on at the same time. Do these dopes REALLY think this will be better with this kind of implementation? I can’t see any benefits at all to this. Takes guts and skill to know when to sacrifice for the good of the team. Leave it alone.

Posted by NIVO from underpants gnome village on 05/10/12 at 02:38 AM ET

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Posted by wan8iv from Calistoga on 05/09/12 at 11:18 PM ET

Yeah, I’m small-minded because I don’t favour making stupid, sweeping changes change the game, making it more difficult for teams to play defense.

Posted by Garth on 05/10/12 at 08:36 AM ET

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Much more elegant solution would be to make it a two minute penalty to leave your feet to block a shot.  Problem solved. No complicated rules for the refs.

Posted by Lapuck on 05/10/12 at 01:09 AM ET

Im not sure this is going to help.  I Actually think this type of shot blocking is down.  The “problem” is teams collapsing all there players in front of the net, so no pucks can get through, either towards the net, or cross ice.

Posted by jwad on 05/10/12 at 10:03 AM ET

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Have to agree with all of those that said the refs can barely manage the current rule book and now we are going to have an offensive zone trapezoid as well?

Bigger ice doesn’t make any more room in front of the net, the guys just clog the same space and there is more room on the periphery. You tend to see even more guys clogging the middle because there is too much room to go chase them on th bigger ice.

Not letting guys go down to block shots is equal to the trapezoid behind the net. For every blocked shot, you have a deflected shot go in (see Staal OT winner) or a defenseman caught out of position. With the trapezoid you had just as many goaltenders flubbing plays in the corner leading to goals than having them move the puck back up on a boring dump in. Devils, for example, don’t allow players to go down since it makes it worse.

If the front of the net becomes a clear zone, we will start complaining there is no traffic and the goaltenders are having too easy a time seeing the puck. Then we will complain someone had their toe in the clear zone and the ref didn’t call it. Then when they start calling it every time a team sets up on a PK we will complain about too many whistles disrupting the game. You can’t legislate against strategy without a lot of unintended consequences.

If goal scoring is so important, then make it illegal for the goaltender to leave his feet and you’d double the number of goals. Is that what we want to see? How about just allowing goaltending equipment being reduced to the size needed to protect the goaltender and not about stopping pucks. Do the gloves have to be 50% bigger to be safe to catch a puck? If every defenseman can block a shot with normal shin guards than why does a goaltender need pads 11 inches wide? Teams have been blocking shots forever and just because it is a “problem” in the Caps vs Rags series doesn’t mean we need to re-invent the wheel.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 05/10/12 at 10:11 AM ET

phillyd's avatar

I Actually think this type of shot blocking is down.  The “problem” is teams collapsing all there players in front of the net, so no pucks can get through, either towards the net, or cross ice.

Posted by jwad on 05/10/12 at 09:03 AM ET

I agree with you on that which is where I think the idea of the “key” came from. Somehow the whole 5 below the circle defense needs to be offset. Without implementing some rule, I don’t know how you do it.

The suggestion in the article is akin to enforcing the “gym class” rules, wingers can’t come back past center ice and defenseman can’t go past center ice. Only centers can be in both zones so it’s 3 on 3 all the time.

Posted by phillyd from Southern New Jersey on 05/10/12 at 10:20 AM ET

redxblack's avatar

Smaller goalie gear would go a long way. Actually, I’d like to see them completely re-engineer all the padding. They should go with state of the art helmets, but much older style (softer) shoulder and elbow pads. Maybe give goalies shin pads that are more like the Motorcycle Grand Prix CE armor (small, form fitted and efficient).

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 05/10/12 at 10:31 AM ET

phillyd's avatar

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 05/10/12 at 09:31 AM ET

I agree with you on that. I think smaller, more form fitting pads is the way to go. Anyone remember playing street hockey goalie (and sometimes ice) with those old Myleck chin guards?

Posted by phillyd from Southern New Jersey on 05/10/12 at 10:36 AM ET

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I agree with you on that which is where I think the idea of the “key” came from. Somehow the whole 5 below the circle defense needs to be offset. Without implementing some rule, I don’t know how you do it.

I dont understand why something needs to be done about it. 

But also, i think that the “shot blocking” is more like a symptom, not the cause.  I think what it comes down to is that alot of people would prefer a more wide open, up and down the ice style of play.  The game right now is alot more about limiting the other teams chances, then it is about taking risks to generate chances. 

I dont know any gimmicky rule that would change that for more than a season or so Larger ice surface might.  But eventually teams will adapt to that to.

Posted by jwad on 05/10/12 at 10:52 AM ET

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Smaller goalie pads may increase scoring slightly, but it will do nothing about “shot blocking” which is what people have been complaining about.
It would probably make it worse.

Posted by jwad on 05/10/12 at 10:54 AM ET

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But the primary shot clocker is still the goaltender, so making his pads smaller will help. When you already have half of the team’s attempted shots on net blocked by forwards, I don’t think you run too much more of a risk for the skaters to block even more. In fact the deflected shots are more likely to beat a goaltender that is down in the butterfly with 8 inch wide pads as opposed to 11 inches and would require the goaltender to play the shots clean.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 05/10/12 at 11:06 AM ET

redxblack's avatar

It would allow goaltenders to be more mobile and cut off angles, which would mean defensemen loafing in the key would be an obstruction that would inhibit good goaltending. It would increase movement.

A larger ice surface would mean fewer seats. That means less revenue. I don’t see bigger ice anytime soon.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 05/10/12 at 11:07 AM ET

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I see none of you has actually played goalie. Any of you want to face a Chara or Weber 110-mph slap shot with modified skater equipment? Any discussion of reducing goalie equipment MUST start with removing composite sticks, which tend to add 10-15mph to a good pro’s shot.

Also, many people complaining about the width of “new school” goalie leg pads have obviously never seen goalies in the 80’s play. Many of those pads were 13” or more wide. Ever seen Blockers that were used in the 80’s? Modern blockers are at least 1/3 smaller. Gloves too.

Goalies themselves are much bigger human beings…no one Rinne’s size played in the 80’s. If you make a ratio between goalie size and equipment size, you will see that a larger goalie using smaller equipment has less density of blocking area than a smaller goalie using huge equipment. Modern goalies must become more athletic to cover the same space, and they have. The butterfly style helps block a lot of shots goalies can’t see and wouldn’t be able to get in a stand-up style. This has added to higher GAAs for modern goalies.

We are all hockey fans….don’t we want to see quality performances in all aspects of the game? Do we really want shooters to constantly make goalies look bad just because “they” want 7-5 games every night? What is wrong with a dramatic 2-1 game (like the Caps-Rangers last night)?

I personally want to see guys diving in front of everything…it shows desperation, sacrifice, commitment to winning at the potential cost of his body. It is this intensity that separates hockey from lesser sports like basketball, and even football.

Posted by a goalie on 05/10/12 at 11:12 AM ET

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We are all hockey fans….don’t we want to see quality performances in all aspects of the game? Do we really want shooters to constantly make goalies look bad just because “they” want 7-5 games every night? What is wrong with a dramatic 2-1 game (like the Caps-Rangers last night)?

+1

Posted by jwad on 05/10/12 at 11:25 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Goalies themselves are much bigger human beings…no one Rinne’s size played in the 80’s.

As solid an argument for bigger nets as I’ve seen.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/10/12 at 11:34 AM ET

phillyd's avatar

Posted by a goalie on 05/10/12 at 10:12 AM ET

I get what you are saying but I find it frustrating as a fan to see so many shots blocked and not even get on net. While I’m a fan of soccer, it’s very similar to the 11 back philosophy in that sport. Let the opposing team pass around the perimeter and try penetrating attacks. The issue in the NHL is that there isn’t enough space to do that within the offensive zone easily and cycling can only do so much. I’d almost suggest taking the blue lines out over doing anything with equipment or the suggestion in the article about a key.

As for being a goalie, yes, I’ve been one and yes, I’ve played goal before with just the normal skater leg pads and a scoop and waffle (sometimes). Is it fun? No. Would I want to do it every game? No, I wouldn’t. Composite sticks won’t go away any time soon as they’ve become the industry standard. I think if you’re going to change the equipment of the goalie, change it for the forwards as well. There can be more slimmer, form-fitting equipment that is just as protective but not necessarily as big.

Posted by phillyd from Southern New Jersey on 05/10/12 at 11:37 AM ET

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Im a bit lost on what the desired outcome is with shrinking goalie equipment, or larger nets.

I thought the debate was about “shot blocking” and teams collapsing in front of the net.  This is more about style of play, then simply about number of goals correct?

I mean, are you going to be more happy, if the score is 5-4 and teams still block 40 attempted shots a night, and all the play in the offensive zone is along the boards cause the defense has 5 guys below the hash marks?

Posted by jwad on 05/10/12 at 11:42 AM ET

wolverine's avatar

Here’s an option that would work but maybe upset hockey purists:  4 on 4 hockey.  It provides more room on the ice and it gets rid of a “layer” in the shot blocking lane.  When you take a penalty it’s a 4 on 3, and a much better chance to score.  I’m a traditionalist but I think this would work.  Only group against this would be the NHLPA.  The cap would go down as you would be getting rid of 4 players from your roster.

Posted by wolverine on 05/10/12 at 11:45 AM ET

redxblack's avatar

The discussion about net size and pad size is to encourage mobility and eliminate the sedentary defensive tactics that lead to shot blocking. Personally, I LIKE low scoring games with blocked shots. I also liked clutch and grab defense and a more aggressive d-zone play with picks and grit. The NHL is trying to increase offense because they are attempting to appeal to casual fans (i.e. - not people who read, let alone comment on hockey blogs) who find the sport boring due to a lack of scoring. IF the NHL wants to move in that direction, I’d like to see a return to a much older style of play. When I watch film of Ted Lindsay or Jacques Laplante, I long for that kind of play. Those guys were all about geometry and accuracy, but while still playing with grit and even a little anger. Still, by and large they did not attempt to injure each other. There was a respect for the craft. I have to think that returning to that style of play might encourage more respect between players.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 05/10/12 at 12:15 PM ET

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We should also force anyone who is in possession of the puck to bounce, or “dribble” it constantly, or be called for “travelling”. We should then get rid of the ice, because it’s obviously WAY too slippery—look at all those guys falling down all the time! And any player making physical contact with another player should result in a whistle, followed by two penalty shots. Finally, raise the net 12 feet above the playing surface, and make it round.

Posted by Steve in San Francisco from San Francisco on 05/10/12 at 02:46 PM ET

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4 on 4 hockey.

No.

Posted by Steve in San Francisco from San Francisco on 05/10/12 at 01:46 PM ET

Exactly.  If I wanted to *#$%@& watch basketball I would god damn well watch basketball.

Posted by Garth on 05/10/12 at 03:46 PM ET

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Players shoot harder because of composite sticks, but goalies no longer use horse hair pads either so they can play the butterfly style without absorbing 10 lbs of water per game. So the improvements in composites is offset by new technology that allows the goaltenders to play a new style that was not envisioned when the game was invented and its subsequent evolution. I wouldn’t want to ban butterfly goaltending, but this is then is an argument for bigger nets, which seems even more radical.

The goaltenders glove does not require the cheat that connects the glove to the oversized blocker, that has nothing to do with safey, but stopping the puck. Look at Ken Dryden’s glove and compare it to that of Carey Price. Dryden’s pads stop where his pants began just above the knee, Prices overlap his pants half way up his thighs. If defenseman can block shots with shin guards, then it is hard for me to believe that you need 11 inches of stuffing if you are a goaltender. That doesn’t mean the goaltender shouldn’t have more padding then the defense, but the argument that the equipment needs to be big just to be safe isn’t 100% accurate either.  There needs to be a limit.

What does this have to do with shot blocking? Well, modern equipment means more players can block shots without injury, that means the goaltenders face fewer shots, but they have equipment that is no longer designed with just safey in mind, but are designed to stop the puck. This leads to much lower scoring, but more importantly less end-to-end action because teams collapse into a box and negate a lot of the skill. Smaller pads means an attempted blocked shot has a greater chance of just being a deflection that beats the goaltender and is less viable a strategy. I think we can agree that Garth Snow’s tutor shooter equipment was an exaggeration and an abomination.

Personally, I have no problem with any of it as it currently is and this is a solution looking for a problem.  If, and that is a big IF, something has to be done, I think making the goaltenders equipment more in line with its intended purpose, goaltender safety, is what I would do first before changing any rules. I’m not opposed to getting rid of composites either, but that is a cash cow.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 05/10/12 at 04:20 PM ET

Steve J's avatar

A larger ice surface would mean fewer seats. That means less revenue. I don’t see bigger ice anytime soon.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 05/10/12 at 10:07 AM ET

I see this argument a lot. However, it’d be pretty easy to bump up ticket prices by a small amount and maintain the same level of revenue. Wild guess: losing 200 seats at $300 a pop in a 19000 seat arena = a little over $3 increase in each ticket. And you could tier it so cheap seats only go up $1, but expensive seats go up $2.

Posted by Steve J from Columbia, MO on 05/11/12 at 08:34 AM ET

redxblack's avatar

The counter would be they could bump the prices up $3 without removing the seats.

I’d rather the larger ice AND cheaper tickets. I dislike how so many arenas/teams chisel their fans.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 05/11/12 at 11:38 AM ET

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