The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/07/13 at 05:17 PM ET
The NHL sprung a handful of rules upon its players at the beginning of the season, including the "jersey tuck" (and don't-cut-your-pants) rule and insistence that fighters keep their helmets on, lest they incur a 2-minute penalty for doffing them pre-fight.
Goaltenders at least received advanced warning regarding the fact that they were going to lose a significant chunk of their thigh rises thanks to a reformulation of goalie pad sizing rules, there was some warning regarding the redesigned "shallower" nets, and the goalies were at least able to stave off further restrictions regarding their knee pads...
But InGoal Magazine's Kevin Woodley reports that the NHL sprung a nasty surprise upon their goaltenders--and a surprise that will make a much bigger difference than you might think.
According to Woodley, the NHL's now enforcing a 26-inch limit on the "paddles" of goaltenders' sticks, and given that developing goalies, junior hockey-playing goalies, pro goalies and even beer-leaguers have tended to migrate to 26-to-28-inch-long sticks, and given that goalies are taller than ever before, this kind of restriction fundamentally alters the way that they play the game:
Estimates vary on the number of goaltenders that were using sticks with paddles longer than 26 inches. One NHL goalie coach pegged the number at “roughly half,” while an industry insider, whose company makes NHL sticks for three different brands, said it was closer to 80 per cent.
So imagine the surprise when the NHL sent a memo to teams September 5 confirming the 26-inch maximum would be enforced this season.
“We had to change my stick because I have used the same stick for five years and all of a sudden it’s too long,” Edmonton Oilers No.1 Devan Dubnyk told InGoal Magazine during the pre-season. “We’ve tried to work with it to make it as little of an adjustment as possible. I need a little bit more grip around it because I narrowed it down, and that’s it.”
At least Dubnyk started tinkering before training camp. There was talk of the NHL enforcing the rule as early as mid-August, but few, including most manufacturers, believed it, saying they’d heard many times it before.
This time, though, it’s actually happening. And just like any other piece of illegal equipment, if a goalie is caught with a long paddle in a post-game inspection, they are subject to an automatic two-game suspension, the equipment manager is fined $1,000, and the team is dinged $25,000. Unlike a player’s stick, it is not subject to in-game measurement.
Two inches may not seem like much, but goaltenders grip their stick where the shaft intersects the thicker paddle, so changing that point relative to the ice can force an altered stance or blocker position, opening up holes on the blocker side arm, and even causing balance issues in the crease.
Lehner said it was a much bigger adjustment than the new, smaller pads. And with stick usage and discipline expected to become even more important as those trimmed down pads open up the 5-hole, getting comfortable with the shorter paddle will be important.
You balance a little on your stick,” [Senators goalie Robin] Lehner said. “When I feel it touch the ice, I know that I am in my right stance. And now all of a sudden I don’t touch the ice, and all of a sudden it throws my balance off. It throws a little bit of everything off. It might not sound like a big deal, but it’s different.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.