September 20, 2011
TORONTO — There were two changes to the net tested during the Ottawa Senators' game at the Toronto Maple Leafs, which opened the NHL preseason Monday night. One was obvious; the other, the players didn't even realize had happened.
There was the green verification line, which was tested during Research and Development Camp last month. It was placed on the ice at three-and-a-quarter inches behind the goal line. It wasn't utilized in the Leafs' 4-2 victory, as there were no incidents requiring video review. But it was unobtrusive; only dummies that can't figure out whether the thick red line or the thin green line is actually the goal line are going to be affected.
The NHL Board of Governors meets on Tuesday and the verification line could be approved for this season. If approved, it'll help with video reviews; some of those confounding debates about the puck "completely crossing the goal line" wlll be nullified.
The other change on display Monday night was a little less obvious than a bright green line on the ice: The nets were four inches shallower — going from 44 to 40 inches — another proposal from R&D Camp that carried over to the preseason.
Was the impact noticeable on Monday night?
"No," said Senators coach Paul MacLean. "I didn't really notice it."
Toronto defenseman John Michael-Liles was one of the few players that recognized the increased room to operate around the cage.
"I noticed it just a little bit, but not a huge difference, which I guess is a good thing. If it was a real, glaring difference, it would have been pretty awkward," he said.
Does it help or does it hurt a defenseman's game?
"I think it can be a double-edged sword," said Liles. "It gives forwards more room back there, but it also gives you more room back there. It can help you and it can hurt you."
Watching from the upper deck, there appeared to be more room to operate behind the net, but the players weren't utilizing it — playing close to the boards, for example, when there was room to avoid a forechecker or a defenseman. It's a negligible change, but one we hope the competition committee looks at implementing: Anything that increases the space on the ice without fundamentally changing the makeup of the rink is a good thing.
Now, as for the puck rocketing in and out of the net on shots … well, clearly the only solution is to borrow from that "American Gladiators" event with the giant hamster balls and have steam shoot from the pipes whenever the puck crosses the line. Clearly …