During last night’s preseason game between Ottawa and Toronto there were a few different things in play that you may have noticed. The NHL tested out a handful of the innovations that were used during the NHL’s Research and Development Camp this summer to help officials and players in regard to scoring and goals.
If you were taking a close look at the nets as well as in and around the goals themselves you noticed a handful of alterations meant to help verify goals. The green verification line was inside the net to help with replays, thin mesh on the top of the goal, and a clear plastic skirt along the bottom of the net were all in play. While none of the replay alterations got a chance to be used, the one that got the most notice were the shallower goals for the goalies to protect.
Chris Johnston of The Canadian Press discussed the nets with both Maple Leafs goalies who played in last nights game. Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens gave their thoughts on the nets.
“People who are a lot smarter than I thought that there was going to be more offence generated from it,” said Scrivens. “You know, they’re the ones who make the decisions and they thought that there would be more chances and more action around the net. I’m sure that’s why they went with it.”
Added Jonas Gustavsson, who started against the Senators: “I guess you’ve got to be quicker post-to-post when they’re going behind the net.”
While the nets will need league approval to be changed, giving them a look in real game action during the preseason when the games don’t count for anything is the best way to show them off and see how well they function. You could argue that Ottawa’s first goal last night got a benefit from the shallow nets as Nikita Filatov had a bit more room to maneuver behind the net (video) to feed a pinching Jared Cowen for a goal.
It’s a very small sample size, but giving guys more room to play behind the net on offense is such a subtle change but a good one. Having more room to create and elude defenders helps the offensive flow. Gustavsson’s point about having to be quicker going from post to post to prevent wraparounds is a great one. The wraparound goal is one that you don’t see happen too often these days because of defensive positioning and having to circle back behind the net far enough to give goalies time to get in place.
After one game, however, the shallow nets look even more like a no-brainer innovation for the league to adopt. Boosting offense without radically altering the game by way of making the nets bigger or anything out of that mold are the kinds of things that should get very strong consideration. Shallow nets don’t do anything to make the game into a circus and if making goalies work a little harder and pay better attention to the play going on around them is the only real alteration, it’s time for the league to go ahead with it.