One story line that hasn’t quite been talked about much lately is the new NHL regulations on goalie pad size. It’s been a slow process for the league to implement a rule that ramps down excessively big equipment areas that eat up space, but aren’t totally necessary for player protection.
Ken Appleby is wearing the new NHL spec chest protectors that will be enforced next season. There is significantly less padding around the neckline and shoulders, which is a bit concerning. pic.twitter.com/W779Ci6tar
— Gregory Balloch (@GregBalloch) July 18, 2018
This makes a Penguins observer instantly think of Matt Murray. Officially listed at 6-foot-4 and a generous 178 pounds, Murray has the body composition of a wiry string bean and the health record of an aging veteran. However, whenever he’s adorned in goalie pads, he looks like he can barely fit through a doorway to come from the locker room to the ice surface.
It remains to be seen how much Murray will be affected by the adjustment of the upperbody. In theory, all goalies are going to be playing with more size-appropriate pads, and there may be more room for shooters universally around the league.
Already, the league has altered the goalie leg pads and also their pants with a new design and to be more fitting to the length of the goalie legs/waist, which oddly enough was implemented in the middle of last season.
Perhaps in part due to these changes, the amount of goals per game went up to 2.97 per team per game in the 2017-18 regular season. Take out empty net goals and the average goalie performance was a .912 save % and a goals allowed of 2.78 per game, up quite a bit from 2011-16 a period that saw overall goalie performance in the NHL better than ever seen before in the .914 save% and 2.53 GAA. Because of that premiere goalie play, it’s no surprise that around 2016 the league really started digging into limiting goalie equipment in order to open up more empty net for shooters to shoot at.
Recent History of League rules tinkering with goalie equipment regulations (via Oilers Nation)
Summer 2011 – NHL implements rule restricting the height of a goalie’s pad to only come 55% up their thigh.
March 2016 – NHL announces big changes will be coming to goalie equipment in the upcoming season. They admitted a full-scale change would not happen, but confirmed that pants would be smaller.
August 2016 – In an interview with Kevin Woodley, Jason Gregor discovered that no goaltenders have been told anything regarding new equipment.
February 2017 – NHL implements rule change to decrease goalie pants size
May 2018 – NHL announces that goalie chest protector changes are coming next season.
In the vein of player safety and making sure changes were slowly made, those rules from 2016 are just now getting into place.
And, pads or not Matt Murray is still 6’4. He’s bound to cover up a lot of surface area of the net with his lanky torso no matter what he is playing in. This isn’t to say he won’t be an effective goalie, but changes are changes. One player who isn’t as big is potential backup goalie Casey DeSmith, listed at 6’0. This isn’t to say equipment changes will mean he can’t be an NHL caliber player, but it does add a layer of interest to see how much (if any) these new pads influence his ability.
If pressed to guess, in theory one would think this may affect smaller goalie like DeSmith over a bigger goalie like Murray, though it will be interesting to see in action if that theory holds water.
Overall, one would think for a high-skilled team like the Penguins, these changes should be largely beneficial. Give Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby and the whole gang more open space to pick, and they should in theory be able to take advantage of it more than the average skill level of an NHL team. Matt Murray probably won’t be too happy, but otherwise one would think an offensive-minded team like Pittsburgh will come out more ahead than behind with these goalie restrictions.
But it could be something to keep in mind for the future and worth watching around the league to see if these initiatives continue to lead to more scoring, and it’s also probably necessary to remember when we think about what a “good” goalie performance will be next season as it could be likely/possible that the league average goalie save percentage slips back down toward .910%.