Saturday, September 23, 2006

Leafs 5 Canadians 1 (exhibition)

by The Meatriarchy

I only caught the first period but this game had a more regular season feel to it than most exhibition games.

I am not sure that it was the play (which did seem faster) but the coverage. Leafs TV is airing all the exhibition games and have been showcasing their new format and line up (Jody Vance is now hosting) .

The script and overall structure is presented exactly as a regular season game and you tend to forget that this is a meaningless contest and the result will probably have no bearing on the overall outcome of the regular season.

Regardless, what I have seen from the past three games is that the latest NHL rule change is going to have what I believe is a major effect on goal scoring (and goalies) this year. And that is the relaxation of the curve rule. The new rule which allows a 3/4 inch curve as opposed to 1/2 inch has been reported in the media but hasn't been focused on the way other rules like the red-line and tighter refereeing were in the run-up to last season.

But this one could really blow the game open. Last night Mats Sundin unleashed a shot from the mid-boards that took off like a rocket and moved at a very steep trajectory finding the underside of the crossbar as the Canadiens goalie was going down. Last year that shot would not have risen so high so quickly.

In the first game against Buffalo a Sabres player (I can't remember who) skated from behind the net and popped one over Raycroft's shoulder. Raycroft had hugged the post perfectly and had taken away the lower part of the net as all goalies do nowadays. And last year the Buffalo forward would have been way too close to make that shot. But I am betting he had a new curve and thus that shot was now an option.

So after a year of having to adjust to smaller equipment and a new style of play goalies will now be forced to deal with wicked rising shots from strange angles.

Not that this is a bad thing. The original curve rule was instituted at a time when goalies didn't wear masks and players didn't wear helmets.

Goaltending has evolved to a science nowadays and quite frankly I find it boring. Gone are the days of dramatic saves and acrobatic goaltending. Goalies now play the percentages and try to make sure they cover the area of the net that the puck is most likely to come towards. And that area has largely been the lower half of the net. So you often see goalies going down even before the shot is taken. They are that sure that the puck isn't going to be going high.

Makes for solid goaltending but also pretty boring play.

How often have you been watching a game where some announcer will yell "what a save!" and the goalie didn't appear to move? ( for me Pat Roy was a classic example) Maybe this year we will see a change in that.

What this will mean however is that some goalies will really suffer for it. But at least it is better than making the nets bigger.

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