Report: Competition committee debates changes to goalie equipment, blocked shots


Prior to the start of the 2013-14 campaign, the NHL shortened the maximum length of goaltender pads, which itself is determined by the height of the netminder, in the hopes that it would lead to increased scoring. However, goaltenders’ save percentage rose to .915 this season, which is the highest it’s been since the statistic was first tracked in 1983-84.

With that in mind further changes are being considered, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. While keeping the goaltenders protected remains the priority, they want to fight against gear that’s primarily about blocking shots.

Among the possible alterations would be to make goaltenders wear tapered jerseys to prevent them from being able to obscure oversized equipment.

There might also be changes coming for other players as well. NHLPA special assistant Mathieu Schneider reportedly suggested a ban on certain types of blocked shots. Per Friedman:

Without his commentary, it’s difficult to know exactly what he proposed, but in 2008, then-Canadiens GM Bob Gainey recommended banning full-body sliding while in the defending zone.

I’ve spoken to players about this before, and they make a good point. You’re going to have to legislate it out, because many are told that if they don’t block shots, they won’t play.

The emphasis on blocking shots has been a matter of some debate from a tactical standpoint for a while. Obviously a shot that doesn’t even reach the goaltender isn’t going in the net, but players that block shots are also putting themselves at risk of injury. Former coach John Tortorella, who was a big advocate for even top-end skilled players blocking shots, was often scrutinized for his emphasis on the tactic.

As Pat Quinn noted, “I talked to (team doctor) Mike Bernstein and he said the injuries are terrible. He said so many of them are coming from the blocked shots and they’re fractures, and they’re not easily healed.”

There’s no question that blocking shots is a big part of how the game is currently played and really it’s a question of degrees not absolutes. Perhaps putting in rules to reduce certain types of blocks though would lead to fewer injuries and more goals.

If any of these potential changes happen at all, it likely won’t be until the 2016-17 campaign at the earliest.

Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final sets NBC ratings record


The second game of the Stanley Cup Final was an exciting back-and-forth battle and it appropriately attracted a big audience. NBC announced that Tampa Bay’s 4-3 victory over Chicago had a 4.8 metered market rating, which is a new record compared to the previous Stanley Cup Final Game 2s that have aired on NBC.

Among the contests it beat was Game 2 of last year’s New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings series. That contest went to double overtime and posted a 4.56 rating.

NBC was also the top network in both Chicago (22.6 rating) and Tampa Bay (15.1) over the course of the game. Buffalo (8.6), Milwaukee (6.7) and Ft. Myers (6.5) were the other markets in the top five.

Monday and Wednesday’s contests will air on NBCSN and Game 5 will be on NBC on Saturday. If they’re necessary, Game 6 and 7 will also air on NBC. All of the remaining contests have 8:00 p.m. ET scheduled start times.

Lightning aren’t sure who will start in Game 3


Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper wouldn’t say why goaltender Ben Bishop was pulled twice in Game 2 or name his starter for Monday when asked following the contest Saturday night. Given that we’re in the Stanley Cup Final, it wasn’t surprising when he dodged another question about Bishop’s status during Sunday’s media availability.

“Well, in honor of the 11-year anniversary of our organization’s first Stanley Cup, how would John Tortorella answer that question?” Cooper joked.

He did go on to give some useful tidbits though, starting with the fact that Cooper isn’t sure who will play. He suggested that we might gain more insight from Monday’s practice, but given it will be optional and Bishop doesn’t always take part in them, the goaltender’s absence during the skate wouldn’t necessarily mean anything.

He also acknowledged that it would be a blow to the team if Bishop isn’t available tomorrow while still expressing his full support of Andrei Vasilevskiy.

“I look at our tandem, I’d like to stack them up against any tandem in the league because I think we’ve got, you know, 1 and 1A,” the bench boss said.

Vasilevskiy held his own in Game 2 to help Tampa Bay earn a 4-3 victory, but his lack of experience has to be a concern. He’s 20 years old and has played in 19 NHL contests, including the regular season.

Quenneville hints at splitting up Toews-Kane line


Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville put Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on a line together and it worked out nicely towards the end of the Western Conference Final. However, Tampa Bay has done a much better job of silencing Kane and Toews as they haven’t found the back of the net yet and Kane wasn’t able to get a shot on goal in Game 2.

As a result, it sounds like Quenneville is leaning towards rolling out more balanced lines in Game 3 on Monday.

“They didn’t have the production they did in the last couple games of the Anaheim series,” Quenneville said of the top line during Sunday’s press conference. “Certainly they’ve had some zone time, they’ve had some rush chances. They’ve made them defend. We split them up a little bit in the third, saw how that worked out.

“But, you know, their team defense is aggressive. There’s not a lot of room and time. I think that maybe changing those two guys on different lines will get us a little bit more depth and a little bit more balance, see how they can defend it.”

Quenneville also stated that Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell is healthy and if he is available for Game 3 then that might also bolster their depth. Teuvo Teravainen has impressed his bench boss though, so Quenneville has no shortage of significant decisions to make regarding the roster going into Game 3 on Monday.

To Leetch, Keith is a clear Hall of Famer


It’s far too early to assess Duncan Keith’s career as a whole, but there’s also no denying that he’s accomplished more at the age of 31 than most defensemen will in their entire career. And it seems to be enough as far as retired defenseman Brian Leetch is concerned to assert that the Blackhawks blueliner will someday join him in the Hall of Fame.

“I don’t know how it couldn’t be looked at that way,” Leetch told NHL.com. “From the eye test. From watching him on the ice. His age. And then you bring up the individual and team awards, I’m not sure how you’d be able to keep him out.”

Another Hall of Fame defenseman, Scott Niedermayer, wouldn’t put up much of a counter argument. He agrees that if Keith hasn’t already secured his spot in the Hall of Fame, then Chicago winning the Stanley Cup this year would probably be enough to solidify his spot.

Keith has already won the Norris Trophy twice, two Olympic gold medals, and he’s currently battling for his third championship. He might also end up with the Conn Smythe Trophy as he’s recorded 19 points in 19 playoff games and is averaging 31:19 minutes per contest. That level of work is something that Leetch can relate to as he was also logging similarly big minutes with the Rangers when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1994.

Unsurprisingly, Keith’s biggest concern right now isn’t what happens after his career, it’s what will transpire over the coming days. Tampa Bay and Chicago are even going into Game 3 on Monday.