The NHL wants to increase scoring, so yet again, shrinking the goalies’s pads were a point of emphasis this offseason.
In previous summers, it has been chest protectors, leg pad widths and five-hole and knee flaps targeted. This time, it was the length of pads, reducing them through a complicated formula to get pads “anatomically proportional and size specific based on the individual physical characteristics of that goalkeeper.”
Wild goalies Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding wore their new pads during Friday’s scrimmage and the difference was obvious. Backstrom lost an inch, Harding an inch-and-a-half.
“It just feels different more than anything,” Harding said. “I know we’re going to get used to it, but it’s a feeling-out process.”
Each NHL goalie is given a “limiting distance size.” It’s “the sum of the floor to knee and 45 percent [used to be 55 percent] of the knee to pelvis measurements plus a four-inch allowance for the height of the skate.” Each manufacturer sends their clients’ pads directly to the NHL offices in Toronto.
There, the league measures the pads, deems them legal and ships them to the goalie’s club. The pads of Backstrom and Harding are each signed on the bottom in black marker by NHL senior manager of hockey operations Kay Whitmore with the date, “August 21,” and number, “45,” indicating the reduction from 55 percent.
“It is easier to move around, but I don’t want to say that because they’ll take 10 percent off more next summer,” Backstrom said, jokingly. “My problem is I got these last week and would have liked to have them at the beginning of the summer. I think you come out with a new rule, it should be in May or June so you’ve got the summer to get used to them.”
Backstrom and Harding say stopping shots between the legs will take an adjustment now.
“You’re so used to going into the same butterfly motion and your knees are so apart, but if you do that now, there’s going to be a gap,” Harding said. “So you’re going to have to narrow the butterfly.
“What I need to work on is dropping and moving and keeping them closed. You’re extending and there is an opening now. So I need to come across more square and tight.”
Harding plans to use two sets of pads this year, one white and one fiery red. He said because he sweats a lot, this will also help in back-to-back games. Harding and Backstrom have new helmets, too, with Harding’s looking like a Wild toque.
“I’m surprised we’re even still allowed to wear helmets,” Harding joked.
During Friday’s scrimmage, the white and green teams tied at 2-2, with Kyle Brodziak, Dany Heatley (on a penalty shot), Jason Pominville and Zach Parise scoring goals.
Coach Mike Yeo has been impressed with Nino Niederreiter, 21, who came to the Wild from the Islanders in the Cal Clutterbuck trade. He wants to see more “puck touches,” though, in Sunday’s scrimmage.
“I like the fact that he’s a big man and plays a big man’s game,” Yeo said of “El Niño.”
Yeo also liked Friday’s scrimmages by Justin Fontaine and Erik Haula.
“[Fontaine] was pretty good on the wall,” Yeo said. “And he’s got the skill level to execute the plays, but on top of that, he’s a smart player and sees the game at a high level.
“Haulsy, what’s really important for him is that he keeps growing every day. He’s been a successful college player [at Minnesota], but this is a big jump and I want to see him really start to grasp the pro game.”