Friday, 16 September 2016

An Interesting Concept

When things are done differently, it takes time for people to adjust. If this adjustment benefits those who are doing things differently, the change is labelled as innovative. Whether or not we'll see the Florida Panthers leading the way in innovative hockey ideas is certainly up for debate after they have begun to practice with white pucks as seen above. Yes, those are the real things that the Panthers are using in their practices to help their two goalies, Roberto Luongo and James Reimer, focus while in net for the upcoming season. Will this work?

It's not as if the Panthers had any issues with how Luongo played his position last season, but the additional work on getting the netminders to focus on the puck and keep their heads in the game a little more won't hurt. Luongo posted excellent numbers in going 35-19-6 with a 2.35 GAA and a .922 save percentage while posting four blank sheets. Reimer stumbled in his time with Toronto - who didn't? - but still managed to post a 17-14-7 record, a 2.30 GAA, a .922 save percentage, and three shutouts in his time with the Sharks and Maple Leafs. Again, not too shabby, but there were certainly times where it seemed like Reimer's head was elsewhere last season.

The white pucks force the goaltender to concentrate on la rondelle when it leaves the stick. The white is supposed to be harder to see on the white ice and potentially against the white background of the boards, making it harder to pick up the puck for the goaltender who is supposed to stop it. I'm not sure if this will translate into additional saves during the regular season and/or playoffs, but the idea of getting netminders to focus on what is s somewhat-invisible puck at times is a lot like muscle memory in that Luongo and Reimer should keep their minds trained to focus on what's happening in front of them instead of stuff happening in other parts of their lives.

There was no report on whether the rest of the Panthers will be included in the focus training, but I suspect that there could be a few deflection drills that will use these pucks as well. Players often know where the puck is and off of whose stick it's coming, but keeping their eye on the puck when it disappears would be a good drill for the offensive players. I'm not sure that slapshots from the point would be a wise move, but a few wrist shots for redirections may prove beneficial for the offensive players as well!

Innovation comes in many forms. If the Panthers see a statistical increase from their goaltenders, I suspect that these white pucks will continue to be used in practices. Luongo and Reimer are already good netminders based on their numbers, but any improvement could push the Panthers to the top of the Atlantic Division.

While the evidence won't be seen until we're into the regular season and a handful of games are played for a sample size, I suspect that if the Panthers show improvement in the goaltending stats there will be other teams who follow suit in getting their netminders to focus harder and concentrate better.

All because of a few white pucks.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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