TORONTO - Colby Armstrong and Keith Aulie don’t carry a tape measure in their hockey pants, so they’ll take everyone else’s word that the NHL is experimenting with smaller nets in pre-season games.
“I saw the highlights and they were a bit shorter, but I didn’t notice during the game,” said Armstrong, who had a goal and assist on Monday when the new frames were used in a 4-2 home win against Ottawa.
The shallow-back nets are four inches shorter, meant to encourage more creativity behind the goal and increase wraparound attempts.
“Maybe the more you get used to it and get your timing, you can work some real plays down low,” Armstrong said. “Maybe then you will notice it more.”
Defencemen should have a better view of who is sweeping around the net toward their side and will have a bit of extra space to pass on a breakout.
Which the 6-foot-5 Aulie says will happen - eventually.
“I knew the nets were there, but the short answer is, I didn’t notice a difference playing around them,” Aulie said. “You adapt to what’s out there and just play. In theory, it should be better for those types of (passing) plays.”
Netminder Jonas Gustavsson had reason to be concerned about players being able to get from post-to-post behind him in quicker fashion. He has had trouble in the past tracking pucks that go wide and the Sens tried a couple of jam plays on Monday. But Gustavsson said he wasn’t making major adjustments yet.
“It was a little tighter there, so you have to be quicker on the posts,” he said. “The more you play, the more you will notice it. It will be tougher for the goalies, but it will be fun. You can’t see a pattern from one game, you will have to see after 10 or 20 games, if there are more wraparounds and stuff like that.”
The Leafs did see the new verification line that has been implemented to settle disputed goals faster by replay.
“I think it will help,” Armstrong said. “It doesn’t take away from anything out there on the ice or change anything.”
He was also intrigued about the league testing thinner mesh atop the net for even better clarity on overhead cameras. The next step is a clear plastic strip, as well as down each posts so referees can better judge pucks when they’re positioned on the opposite side.
“That’s cool,” Armstrong said. “Maybe if you hit the post it will come out a little differently, too. But it’s good they’re trying things to make the referee’s job a little easier. It could come down to some big goals late in a game that they might have missed.”