This is the first full week that the NHL has implemented the streamlining of goaltender hockey pants. Sure, we have heard the predictable complaints from goaltenders but what did we think they would say about smaller equipment? They are worried about allowing more goals and thus seeing their GAA and save percentage rise. This had to be done. Some goaltenders were wearing pants that were six times the size they needed. They weren’t doing this for protection. They were doing it so that they could take up as much of the net as possible.
The bigger question really is, should this have been done mid-season? The answer to that should be no, for several reasons. First, just like in a Fantasy league, a rule should never be changed during the season unless every team, and I mean every team, agrees. Second, even if you believe it’s in the best interest of the game, how is it fair that some teams have played a different number of games than other teams? That would seem to change the balance of power somewhat. Third, is it really fair to have goaltenders adjusting to new equipment mid-season? Goalies are already a different breed. You have to be at least a little crazy to willingly stand in front of a frozen rubber disc traveling at speeds in excess of 100 MPH. They are creatures of habit who now have to adjust to these new pants on the fly. So, while I applaud the NHL for trying to raise the number of goals scored per game, it will remain my belief that this should’ve been implemented at the start of next season.
Will the number of goals rise? Yes, but not in any substantial way. The pants are now rounded more than squared off so theoretically, it will be more difficult for goalies to control rebounds and pucks may even roll in the net. The pants are smaller, so yes, there should be more room to shoot but we are not talking about a goal per game difference. We are probably more in the .25 goals per game range. Some goaltenders won’t have any issues with the new pants, but others will let it get to their head. In other words, for Fantasy purposes I really wouldn’t worry about this all that much. However, if by next season the NHL succeeds in making the blocker, trapper, and all of the other equipment more streamlined, then we could be seeing a bigger increase in pucks hitting the back of the net.
What will the Kings do when Jonathan Quick (groin) is ready to return to action? Peter Budaj has been a season savior for Los Angeles. The reason the Kings didn’t make a deal for someone like Marc-Andre Fleury is because of the play of Budaj. In 47 games this season, he is 25-16-3 with a 2.09 GAA and .917 save percentage. Those are fantastic numbers. The team is currently sitting fifth in the Western Conference (top three make the playoffs) and one point out of a possible wild card. They can’t afford to declare that Quick is their starting goaltender and a future Hall of Famer, and just plug him back into the starting role as soon as he is able to return. They can’t give Quick time at the NHL level to find his game. Poor goaltending play down the stretch could be enough to keep them out of the playoffs. This is sure to give Fantasy owners a headache in a couple of weeks.
The Bruins fired coach Claude Julien on Tuesday. It was pretty cute to do it when the Patriots were having their parade to take away the spotlight. However, I wouldn’t expect radical changes. The biggest problem for the team seems to be the lack of a solid backup goaltender, leaving Tuukka Rask overworked. He was having a Vezina Trophy type season for the first couple of months. However, both Rask and the entire Bruins team have not played well of late. There is little that can be done here. Boston has played roving backup goaltenders with Anton Khudobin and Zane McIntyre. Unless a trade is made for a better backup net minder, nothing will change in the long-term.
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