NHL debuts tweaked nets

TORONTO -- The NHL is already making tweaks at the start of preseason play.

Some of the initiatives from last month's research and development camp debuted Monday during a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators.

Among the changes is a green verification line that runs 3¼ inches behind the goal line and shallower nets that feature thin mesh along the top and a clear plastic skirt along the bottom.

The proposed tweaks are intended to make it easier for the league's video room to make correct calls using instant replay. Some of these new features could be used during the regular season.

"We want to get some good information so that we can take it to the board of governors and give them a good demonstration of what benefit it would be," said Mike Murphy, the NHL's senior vice president of hockey operations. "That's what we're hoping tonight, that we can get some good footage of it in practical use. We can put this forward."

The new nets seemed to hold up well as the Maple Leafs beat the Senators 4-2.

The board meets Tuesday and will likely vote on a proposal that includes the immediate introduction of the verification line and clear plastic skirting along the bottom of the goal, which gives referees a better view inside the net. Neither is considered an official rule change.

When the Leafs took the ice for Monday's morning skate at the Air Canada Centre -- the only location where the nets are being tested on the opening night of the preseason -- Toronto coach Ron Wilson and goalie Ben Scrivens chatted with Murphy. They were both eager to get a closer look at the changes.

"It's cool stuff," Scrivens said. "You see it on TV, all the stuff they did at the R and D camp this year. I honestly kind of forgot about it. I noticed the mesh on the top, I noticed the verification line and I noticed the net was a little bit (shallower)."

The verification line should be a major help during reviews.

If a puck can be seen touching part of the green line during a replay it means that it is completely in the net. Depending on the camera angle, it has sometimes been difficult to determine whether a puck has completely crossed the goal line.

"Murph was showing me some of the optical illusions that happen at ice level," Wilson said. "From the front looking in, the camera may think the puck was over the line when it actually still needs another half-inch to go. And vice versa from behind the goal line."

Nets that are 4 inches shallower will require more of an adjustment from goalies, but won't be implemented right away. The league only owns the two that were used on Monday night and would need to gain approval from the competition committee before they were used across the league in meaningful games.

The shallower nets are designed to give players more space to operate behind the goal, which could lead to an increased number of wraparound attempts while also opening up passing angles in front. They were given a test run during the recent rookie tournament in Oshawa, Ontario.

"People who are a lot smarter than I thought that there was going to be more offense generated from it," Scrivens said. "You know, they're the ones who make the decisions and they thought that there would be more chances and more action around the net. I'm sure that's why they went with it."

Added Jonas Gustavsson, who started against the Senators: "I guess you've got to be quicker post-to-post when they're going behind the net."

The NHL has run a research and development camp the last two summers, and these ideas originated there. According to Murphy, the R and D sessions have given the NHL an "opportunity to look at some outside-the-box ideas and experiment."