The trapezoid. Just that word engenders some deep opinions among NHL players, fans and coaches. Still, as Capitals rookie goaltenders Braden Holtby said, “It’s in the game; you have to deal with it.”
But let’s look at a couple different perspectives on it from goalies whose lives and careers are affected by it every day.
“The thing’s the worst thing ever invented in hockey,” Holtby said. “Thing drives me insane.”
That’s one way to look at it. Many goalies, including Martin Brodeur, have been critical of the NHL’s move to put the trapezoid behind nets, restricting goalies from handling the puck in the corners. It’s considered the Brodeur rule because the Devils goalie is more or less a third defenseman out there with his ability to clear the zone.
The idea following the lockout was to encourage more offense and make defensemen retreat into the corners with forwards pressuring them. It’s a double-edged sword, Holtby said, because it leads to more injuries for defensemen – one reason why he likes to handle the puck a lot.
Having the trapezoid there boxes him and others in. But some goalies like that.
“I think the trapezoid really kinda backfired on the league a bit because what it does for the goalies is it takes the gray area out it for us,” Flyers veteran Brian Boucher said. “Now we know we can’t go in the corners, so you don’t go. And now we just play pucks from behind the net and we know our D are gonna get open for options and we make plays.”
It’s an interesting perspective, and something that varies depending on how comfortable goaltenders are leaving their crease. Holtby clearly is, even though it sometimes costs him.
That’s what happened Tuesday night on Montreal’s first goal – and it had nothing to do with the trapezoid. Holtby went behind his net to send a puck around the boards, and before he could get back, Travis Moen fired it in.
“Sometimes [goalies are] a little scared to jump out of the box because if you do get scored on that way, it looks bad,” Holtby said last week.
Sounds about right. But it’s just part of the learning process Holtby discussed with reporters Saturday.
“Obviously you have to prove yourself. That’s why very few people do it in the NHL,” Holtby said. “I have to do a better job of it than I did, but I’m learning from my mistakes.”
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau has grown accustomed to his goalies handling the puck.
“Being here I’ve had to get used to it,” he said. “On the same token, if you’ve got a goaltender that can play the puck good – what an added bonus.”
Holtby, who is 5-0 in this call-up but gets a rest Wednesday night as Michal Neuvirth starts at Detroit, said there is some credence to Boucher’s theory. But as a goalie who used to play forward and handle the puck alone in his basement, he wants to have some freedom to leave his crease.
“It also benefits the goalies that can skate,” Holtby said. “If you’re not a very good skater, you obviously have a bigger gray area than guys that can skate.”
And while he’s making some errors along the way, Holtby feels fortunate he hasn’t gotten too close to breaking that trapezoid rule.
“Luckily I haven’t gotten a penalty for touching the puck in there yet,” Holtby said, “knock on wood.”