They are a brilliant white and have the customary red and blue accents, but there’s something missing from Carey Price’s new goalie pads.
Roughly 11/2 inches off the top, in fact.
Netminders across the NHL are breaking in new, smaller armour this week, part of a summer rule change aimed at boosting goal-scoring.
Pro goalies tend to be finicky about their pads, which are typically crafted by a small handful of high-end manufacturers; with 60 or more NHL goaltenders needing new equipment, they’ve had trouble keeping up with demand.
So has league goalie gear maven Kay Whitmore, who used to guard the Hartford Whalers and Vancouver Canucks cage, among others, and whose remit is to inspect and measure every single piece of new equipment.
Each is initialled once it passes muster.
“Yeah, [the initials] are all over these things,” Price said, holding up the pads.
The 26-year-old had his first serious opportunity to test out the brand-new equipment – he goes through a half-dozen sets in a typical season – during Thursday’s intrasquad game.
“It was pretty good,” he said, “there’s nothing to complain about so far.”
When on form, Price is as placid as a lake on a windless day, and while he’s taking everything in stride, he could surely have lived without piling a significant equipment change on top of the pressure of rebounding from a disappointing conclusion to the 2013 season.
Although there will be slightly less of him to protect the net, Price said the shortened knee risers – the portion above his knees – might actually make it easier to play from his butterfly because his pads no longer catch on each other when he drops to the ice.
Pad size is a function of leg length, and while Price wore the maximum allowable for his legs last season (37 inches), this year, he’ll have to adapt his technique to cover the three or four inches of extra space his new equipment shows to opposing shooters.
He said it shouldn’t require a major change – Price’s style involves a fairly wide butterfly, which may make it trickier to cover the space between his legs, but sealing the ice is mostly a matter of fine-tuning.
“I think it’s all about hip flexibility … if you have it, you can flatten out your pads more,” he said.
Asked whether smaller, lighter pads might allow him more sprightly movement in the crease, he said: “Quicker, I don’t know, maybe more efficient.”
Such is the hope, anyway.
The off-season emphasis going into the player lockout-shortened 2013 campaign was on improving Price’s performance in shootouts – which he did (21-13-4, 2.59 goals-against average, .905 save percentage). This year, his principal aim is “just being patient and keeping my game quiet.”
In practice, that will mean holding his ground at the top of the crease and minimizing unnecessary side-to-side movement.
As if smaller equipment wasn’t enough, Price and his peers will also have to get used to shallower nets this year.
The new dimensions will open a wider passing angle from behind the net, and make it easier for players carrying speed to skate around the back and storm out front – expect a monster comeback for the good old wraparound play next month.
“I didn’t even realize until [last Wednesday] that they had changed the nets,” Price said with a smile. “It gives me more room to go out and stop pucks, so I’ll take it.”
The first day of on-ice workouts at Habs training camp also gave Price, who went into a late-season tailspin and had a miserable playoffs, a chance to get acquainted with new position coach Stéphane Waite, late of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
The pair have no immediate plans to overhaul Price’s style, although they huddled at length during practice and Price is a willing pupil (“He’s got a great résumé”).
As usual, a lot of the preseason spotlight in Monteal will focus on the guy in net, and while Price warned fans across the league to expect an outbreak of goals over the opening two or three months of the season, he’s confident normal service will resume thereafter.
Whether Habs fans will be patient and understanding of any early-season hiccups is another matter.
Although the few hundred lucky enough to score a seat at Thursday’s scrimmage should note that neither of the two goals Price gave up went through his pads.