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Pipes of Teal: 2010-2011 Season Goalie Padding Changes, and how they affect SJ's Twin Finns

The biggest change you won’t hear much about this year will go into effect when the first exhibition games start later this month. The NHL has finally adopted "proportional fitting" for goalies as it pertains to the leg guards, and have reduced the profile limits on the knee pads an additional inch from 10" to 9".

While many goalies would have you believe the end of the world is neigh, these are not the first changes in goaltending gear. In addition to the post-lockout width reductions of the leg guards from 13 inches to the current 11 inches, last year the NHL adopted three important changes in the areas of the thickness of the knee lifts, the profile and attachment of the calf protectors, and introduced snugger (proportional) fitting upper body protectors. The video below explains the 2009-2010 changes, as described by Kay Whitmore:

(Sorry guys, embed didn't work. Click HERE to view the video over at InGoalMag.com)

This year, the proportional fitting has moved to the leg guards.  Here it is, straight from this year’s Rulebook at NHL.com:

11.2 Leg Guards – The leg guards worn by goalkeepers shall not exceed eleven inches (11'') in extreme width when on the leg of the player. Each goalkeeper must wear pads that are anatomically proportional and size specific based on the individual physical characteristics of that goalkeeper. The League's Hockey Operations Department will have the complete discretion to determine the maximum height of each goalkeeper's pads based on measurements obtained by the League's Hockey Operations Department, which will include the floor to center of knee and center of knee to pelvis measurements.  Each goalkeeper will be given a Limiting Distance Size based on these measurements. The Limiting Distance Size will be the sum of the floor to knee and 55% of the knee to pelvis measurements plus a four inch (4") allowance for the height of the skate.  The Limiting Distance Size is a vertical measurement from the playing surface and will be measured with the Limiting Distance Gauge.  Any pads deemed too large for a goalkeeper will be considered illegal equipment for that goalkeeper, regardless of whether or not they would have fallen within previous equipment maximums.  The minimum length of the boot of the pad is to be no less than seven inches (7''). The goal pad must have a defined boot channel with no inserts. The channel must be big enough so that the skate slots into it and is not resting on the pad.  No attachments such as plastic puck foils are permitted.  Pads can only be ten and one-half inches (10-1/2'') deep.  The measurement will be taken from the front face of the pad to the last edge of the inner knee protection.

Comparing this to the same paragraph in the 2009-2010 Rulebook, it’s easy to see that extensive changes were made:

11.2 Leg Guards – The leg guards worn by goalkeepers shall not exceed eleven inches (11'') in extreme width when on the leg of the player. The maximum length from bottom mid-point to top mid-point of the pad is not to exceed thirty-eight inches (38''). The minimum length of the boot of the pad is to be no less than seven inches (7''). The goal pad must have a defined boot channel with no inserts. The channel must be big enough so that the skate slots into it and is not resting on the pad. No attachments such as plastic puck foils are permitted. Pads can only be ten and one-half inches (10-1/2'') deep. The measurement will be taken from the front face of the pad to the last edge of the inner knee protection.

So, how exactly does proportional fitting work? Essentially, it’s two formulas, which are based on measurements each goalie provides to their pad manufacturers prior to season start.

These formulas are:

Goalie Specific Size (GSS) = (Distance from floor to knee center) + 55% of distance of Knee to Pelvis

Limiting Distance Size (LDS) = GSS + 4" (average skate height)

So, using my 6-foot frame as an example, if I have a 21.5" Floor to Knee measurement, and my Knee to Pelvis is 23", my maximum allowable legal pad size this year would be:

21.5" + .55(22.5") + 4"= 37.9"

…or, about just about the same as regulation pads from last season.

What does this translate to in the real world, though? 

The 38" Question

Digging into the details, you see a different story than you’d have expected; especially given the fact that the NHL claims that these changes are being made in an attempt to "increase scoring opportunities."

For the regular season, approximately 92% of the goalies are over 6’-0", so, strangely enough, on average,  pads will actually stay the same size or *grow* as a result of the rule change. 

Slide1_medium

via lh5.ggpht.com (click to enlarge)

Wait? What?  Who takes the hit here?

You guessed it. Where this hurts are on the shorter goalies, such as Marc-Andre Fleury , Chriss Osgood, Vesa Toskala, Miikka Kiprusoff, and, oddly enough, Marty Turco. The net effect to them will be a little more drastic, as their padding above the knee will shrink, and their 5 hole will be far more exposed when compared to last year’s gear.  It is readily apparent that the net effect will be benefits to the taller players, allowing them a bit more leeway to relax a bit, and be a clear detriment to the 7% - 8% of the netminders that are less than 6 feet in height.  The athletic advantage that the shorter players get will disappear, as they will have to fully commit to a proper butterfly-style block to seal up the lower end of the net.

It was interesting to note that for the Regular Season, the average goalie height was 6’-0.6", and for the playoffs, it was 6’-1.6". While the average goalie height shifted to slightly taller during the playoffs, there was actually very little change in the overall distribution at the extreme ends of the distribution.

In the playoffs, you may actually see better net coverage this year, as the players average taller (closer to 6’-2"), and will reap the benefit of the larger pads as well in terms of 5-hole coverage.

Slide2_medium

via lh6.ggpht.com (click to enlarge)

Wait. Aren’t the Sharks’ Twin-Finns both above the average height?

Yes, they are. Antero Niittymaki logs in at 73" (6’-1"), and Antti Niemi is recorded at 74" (6’-2"). Based on this, both should see anywhere from a 1/2" to 3/4" increase in pad height this year. Which means that Niemi’s shut-down 5-hole just got a free upgrade. Yeah, you read that right.

The last few weeks at Captain’s Ice, I’ve had the good fortune of seeing Antero Niittymaki between the pipes with his old leather, and with the new. There is no doubt that there were some playing style adjustments being made, as he had to change closure on the 5-hole with the new pads. Clearly, they were different than last year’s, but he did adapt after one or two good 5-hole fly-throughs courtesy of JoPa and Owen Nolan. There is little doubt in my mind that most of the other goalies in the league are going through the same kind of adjustments in their pre-camp skates, and, whether the pads grow or shrink, the net effect will be the same: everyone will be breaking in new gear.

My personal expectation is that these changes won’t do much to the mechanics of goaltending, nor do I expect that it will markedly increase scoring—the size and configuration changes just aren’t as radical as the changes last year. Certainly a few of the players may see big changes (namely the shorter players will be forced to use proper technique rather than relying on taller pads), but, on the whole, if last year’s sealing up of the shin guards didn’t push scores higher, this certainly will not either.

Go Sharks.

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