The NY Hockey Report: Let The Games Begin… Finally!
With more odd-man rushes, open play, limitations on play and smaller equipment, netminders will have a tough time duplicating the numbers they put up in past years.
“I doubt the NFL would change the size of the ball for Tom Brady and Michael Vick and limit them to stay in the pocket,” Rangers’ goalie Kevin Weekes said. “I guess it’s kind of similar. It’s tough for us because the rules have been implemented and it will take time for us to adjust.”
Under the new rules, goalies will no longer be allowed to play the puck in the corners outside the net. There are two small diagonal lines painted behind the goal and in between those marks is the only place a netminder can touch the puck behind the goal line. If they do come in contact in the illegal zone, there’s a delay of game penalty called.
“You can catch yourself where you can put yourself in a position to play the puck and by that time the guy is already on you,” said Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro, who was called for a delay of game during last week’s preseason game against the Rangers. “It’s tough for guys like [Martin] Brodeur, [Marty] Turco and myself, since we are playing that way for such a long time. But guys who are good will adjust.”
The well documented shootout also puts pressure on the guys in the net, since they will have the sole responsibility for a win and a loss. It’s something which will test the resolve of all three local goalies as the season goes along.
The league also shortened the size of the goalie pads, which can hurt goalies, but also give the quicker netminder an opportunity.
“Goalies are better athletes now and it will make us somewhat quicker,” DiPietro said. “It will help bring the athleticism back to the position.”
But Weekes, whose last regular season game was April 4, 2004, is being cautious.
“I don’t try to force it because there’s a lot to grasp and we haven’t played in this league for a year and a half,” the Ranger goalie said, To come back with new rules, new equipment and new enforcement, it’s a lot to grasp and I am trying to keep it simple.”
With the trade of Michael Peca and the retirements of Mark Messier and Scott Stevens, all three local teams will have new captains this year. Center Alexi Yashin will now captain the Isles and will bear the leadership responsibility, which was questioned in the past.
“This is a very big honor for me,” said Yashin in a press release. “There are so many players on our team who are great leaders and would have been excellent choices, so this means a lot. This is a big responsibility that I take seriously. I’m very proud to follow the Islanders captains before me, like Ed Westfall, Denis Potvin and Mike Peca.”
ESPN.com reported Darius Kasparaitis would helm the Blueshirts, but he has yet to wear the ‘C’ and the Rangers started the season with three alternates. The Devils are also going with a three man rotation for captain to begin the season.
Here’s a brief preview of the three teams: Rangers – Looks like a rebuilding year. There are many rookies and second year players on the back lines, but they still have Jaromir Jagr who lines with Michael Nylander. Unless Jagr can come up with a huge season and Weekes reminds the Garden of Mike Richter, it will be a long season.
Islanders – GM Mike Milbury built this team for the new rules changes. Out are Adrian Aucoin and Michael Peca and in are Miro Satan and former Ranger Michael York. If Satan meshes with Yashin as expected and DiPietro continues his development, the Islander can be playing well into June.
Devils – The defense takes a blow with the retirement of Stevens and the departure of Scott Niedermayer. But the Devils still have Brodeur and it’s hard to count out a team with him in goal. Rookie Zach Parise will be fun to watch, but if someone gets hurt, the Devils won’t have cap room to go out and make a trade.