Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom won’t name names, but he knows which goalies have stretched the limits of their equipment and he’s happy to see the NHL cracking down on them this season.
“If you look at the goalies out there today, there’s not a lot of room to shoot,” Backstrom said. “I’m not sure the goalies are too happy about it, but I like it.”
Backstrom wouldn’t say which goalies are the biggest cheaters, but there is a netminder who has beaten the Caps in each of the past two playoff series who might need to make some adjustments this season. [Just sayin’].
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said he may be in the minority among goalies, but he’s in favor of the new restrictions, even if it meant shaving an inch or two from his goalie pads.
“I think it was [necessary],” Holtby said. “I feel like we should be athletes, not robots, guys that use extra protection to stop the puck. I think we should rely on our athleticism, our reactions and our mental game.
“The smaller the gear can be without giving up protection is the best. I may be on my own on this in the goalie world, but that’s how I feel. It should be more about being an athlete and less about guys around a computer at a factory.”
Three years ago, the NHL established that a goalie’s leg pads could not go higher on his leg than 55 percent of the distance between the center of his knee and his pelvis. That number will now be 45 percent, which means that if a goalie’s upper leg measurement is 20 inches (the average length), his pad can go no higher than 9 inches above the center of his knee. That’s 2 inches lower than last season.
There has also been a 2-inch reduction in the size of the knee pads worn under the goalie pads.
Holtby has been wearing the same worn-out knee pads since his rookie year in the WHL in 2006 and he’s keeping them. But there are plenty of NHL goalies who wore three-inch knee pads that helped cover the area between the legs.
“I actually think that might have a bigger effect than the [leg] pads,” Holtby said. “A lot of goalies use that to seal up the 5-hole. They say it’s protection, but I don’t think you need three inches of protection. So I think that’s a good thing.”
Capitals general manager George McPhee agreed, saying he enjoyed hearing the input of goaltenders Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick and Cory Schneider, each of whom served on the players’ competition committee.
“They all use smaller equipment because they are athletic and mobile,” McPhee said. “That’s where talent comes through.”
McPhee noted that future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur has worn the smallest equipment in the league throughout his career. He believes the reduction in goalie equipment will separate the good goalies from the great ones.
“If you’re a fan watching, you see a guy on one end of the rink making all these great saves and giving his team a chance to win,” McPhee said, “and there’s somebody at the other end of the rink wearing equipment that’s big and bulky.
“They’re actually making saves they [shouldn’t be] making. Shots are beating them, but they’re not getting through them.
“I think we’re at a point now where it’s really not about safety anymore because the equipment’s so good,” he continued. “What we’re trying to attack is the equipment that takesup space. Goalies don’t fear getting hurt by pucks as much as they fear pucks getting through them.”