New Covert goes further undercover for Warrior

Warrior Covert DT1LT Senior Composite Hockey Stick - 85 Flex

Warrior Covert DT1LT Senior Composite Hockey Stick – 85 Flex

Plenty of players took the ice with Warrior’s Dagger Technology on the Covert line-up last season. Warrior’s elite model, the DT1 was one of the most popular sticks on the market last year.

The Covert is back for another run with new and improved technology geared to push it to the next level.

The DT1 LT and ST models are ready to find their way to stores, giving players a pair of options when it comes to picking a new stick for the upcoming season.

Both sticks utilize Dagger 2 Technology, which is designed to improve the revolutionary flex-improving technology that was a major part of the Covert’s success in 2012-13. The Dagger 2 further enhances the flex and kick point, providing more kick on shots. In addition, the twinspar technology that was built into Warrior’s blades last season have been extended up into the Dagger tip as an addition compliment to the Dagger 2 features.

The Twinspar EXT is similar, in a way, to the thinking behind the Reebok Ribcor technology. By strengthening the kick point of the stick, Twinspar EXT serves as an additional piece of stick technology that is included as a way to increase kick.

Specifically, the new DT1 line includes the LT and the ST models. The LT is built with features to lighten the shaft and blade in order to promote increased balance and better performance. On the other hand, the ST has a stronger, reinforced design that is perfectly designed for stronger players looking to put more behind their shots.

Other features that are back for 2013-14 are the carbon plated blade and Aramid sole which are both carry over features from previous models designed for durability and longevity of the product.  As someone who had the opportunity to see Warrior’s new technology at work with the Dynasty last season, I fully expect the new Covert line to surpass the innovations introduced last year.

What They’re Wearing: Cory Schneider

What They’re Wearing: Cory Schneider

What They’re Wearing: Cory Schneider

One of the best parts of the start of a new hockey season is all of the new goalie equipment that gets broken in during training camp and into the start of the season. New mask paint, pads and the like makes the first few weeks of the season fun.

While we are still a few weeks away from seeing all the new gear that goalies will be wearing, I wanted to take the chance to evaluate the gear worn by New Jersey’s newest netminder, Cory Schneider.

Mask: Bauer 961 – This is a classic throughout the NHL. It is a lightweight mask that offers great protection. It also has the iconic shape of Bauer’s design team that is reflected in products like the NME mask series.

Blocker & Glove: CCM E-Flex – CCM’s newest model that debuted this season. Designed by Lefevbre – the same guy who designs the Reebok line – the E-Flex is a great looking set that incorporates a number of design standards that have made Lefevbre designed equipment so popular over the years. Schneider specifically uses the one-piece cuff on the E-Flex catch glove as can be seen in this photo.

Pads: Vaughn Velocity V5: Schneider, like myself, is a fan of a softer, flexible pad. One of the few goalies in the league to use a double break on the outer roll of his pad, Schneider has what looks to be a very traditional set up for his leg pads (and his glove set too). While many NHL goalies use a number of special customizations on their pads, there doesn’t seem to be many on Schneider’s set. One interesting thing about his choice of an all-white design is he had been using a really cool color scheme earlier in the year before switching.

Stick: Warrior Swagger: Just a traditional white-based Swagger for Schneider. I’d personally would go blue with green trim if he’s keeping his pads all white, but that’s just my personal preference.

Skates: It is very hard to tell from the picture available on the web, but it would appear that Schneider is using one of the high-end models from Bauer. I’d venture a guess that they’re TotalOne skates or something similar based on the cowling and look of the boot. Leave a thought in the comments section if you have more information on this.

If you have a candidate for What They’re Wearing, please contact us on @greatskateblog or leave your recommendation in the comment section.

Finding the helmet that’s right for you

Bauer IMS 9.0 Hockey Helmet

Bauer IMS 9.0 Ice Hockey Helmet

In the dizzying world of new sticks, varying glove designs and new models of skates being unveiled each season, it can be easy to overlook the importance of purchasing a helmet that is going to offer comfort and, most importantly, protection.

There is a plethora of available helmet manufacturers and models to choose from on the market today and figuring out which one works best for you or your child can be difficult. While picking the shiny new model that Pat Kane was wearing on TV may be the temptation, often there are other factors to consider when evaluating a helmet purchase.

First off, you have to ensure that the helmets you’re trying on will fit properly. This means finding a helmet that fits comfortably on your head, that doesn’t wobble when secured and one that doesn’t apply too much pressure either. Some of this focuses on comfort, but that’s very important. Uncomfortable helmets will drive the wearer to loosen them to increase comfort; this decreases the safety of the helmet ten-fold.

A snug helmet should simply provide a snug fit on your head. It shouldn’t move side-to-side or rotate horizontally, either. Again, it shouldn’t be so tight that it is uncomfortable while it’s being worn.

Finding the right size helmet isn’t necessarily a major bugaboo lately since a vast majority of models can be adjusted on the fly. However, just because you wear a large now doesn’t mean that another large will fit the exact same way. For example, the Bauer IMS 9 sits a little higher on the head and has a slightly more snug fit than a helmet like the CCM V08 which sits lower and fits larger than the IMS. So be sure to try on and fully adjust each helmet model you’re considering before making a final decision. The last thing you need is to snag what you think is your size off the shelf only to find that it fits too large once you get it home.

Another important factor to consider in terms of comfort and fit is the construction of different helmets. Not only in terms of the shell design but also the interior padding. Every company uses a different approach with their helmets lately with some sitting higher on the head and others sitting lower. In addition, each company uses varying levels of design for the guts of their helmets too. For example, Bauer uses a boatload of new technology like Suspend-Tech and PORON foam in the RE-AKT and IMS 9 helmets while the mainstay 4500 still uses a basic VN foam liner.

VN foam is the traditional, soft foam that can be found in many helmets in ice rinks around North America. It is soft and molds well to your head after time providing a high level of comfort. However, VN foam doesn’t provide the same type of resistance as can be found with a more high-tech product like EPP foam or Bauer’s new PORON product.

Many helmets have made EPP foam the primary liner for their helmets as it guards well against high-impact collisions better than most other products. Helmets like the Easton E700 and Reebok 11K use an EPP liner with comfort padding throughout to maximize protection and comfort. One of my personal favorite helmets is my Reebok 8K that uses a similar design to the current 11K helmet.

Of course, with new technology comes new expenses and sometimes breaking the bank isn’t the most vital step to take when purchasing a helmet. For example, a youngster playing mite or squirt hockey won’t need the same type of impact protection as a Triple-A midget or even a junior player. A the risk of high-speed collisions increases with the level of play, the need for increased protection will increase as well.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that no helmet is concussion-proof. Even non-head impact hits can cause the whiplash effect that causes concussions. A helmet designed by NASA wouldn’t help you then. Well, probably not.

The next time you’re in Great Skate picking out a helmet be sure to know the model type you’re searching for. Do you need a helmet like the RE-AKT or 11K that offer an elite level of protection? Or is something like the Warrior Krown 360 or Easton helmets with their high-level of fit, comfort and impact protection something you’re looking for. Perhaps a Bauer 4500 or CCM V08 works best for you. Be sure to evaluate your options, ensure a proper fit before making any final decisions.

What they’re wearing – Ilya Kovachuk

What they’re wearing – Ilya Kovachuk

What they’re wearing – Ilya Kovachuk

Of all the happenings around the NHL this summer, nothing has been more shocking that Ilya Kovalchuck’s decision to retire from the NHL and return to play for SKA in the KHL. As he departs for Russia, we’ll take a look at the gear he sported in the NHL.

Unlike our first target, Mikhail Grigorenko, Kovalchuk is a very loyal Warrior client who hasn’t been seen in anything but their gear for a number of seasons. Since Kovalchuk doesn’t bounce around with the equipment he uses, tracking his set up was much easier. Here’s what he wore during the shortened 2013 season:

Skates: Bauer Vapor APX

Since Warrior has not jumped into the skate market just yet, Kovalchuk sports Bauer’s APX line for his skates. A popular, lightweight skate, the APX is used by countless professionals and is equally popular in youth and adult rec leagues across North America. No surprise to see a skill player like Kovalchuk in a skate that promotes agility and speed.

Gloves: Warrior Luxe

The Luxe line bridged the gap, in a way, between the Franchise and this year’s Covert line. While Kovalchuk didn’t get into a Covert full-time, the Luxe shares many of the same qualities. A more tapered, anatomically fit glove compared to the traditional four-roll fit of the Franchise, the Luxe provides a little more snug fit which is beneficial for players who like their gloves to respond in unison with their hands. While the Covert has taken up the Luxe’s mantle, you can find the same tapered comfort in Warrior’s new line.

Helmet: Bauer 4500 with Bauer visor

The one Warrior product Kovalchuk doesn’t use is the Krown 360 helmet. He opts for the traditional, low-profile 4500 model which is still prevalent in many areas. The 4500 uses a traditional foam liner as opposed to some of the high-end EPP foams with special inserts seen in such helmets as the Bauer RE-AKT or the Krown. Kovalchuk’s visor appears to be the Bauer J-cut which is very similar to the wave or aviator cut visors on the market but with an additional cut on the side of the visor. It’s a tough visor to find but the Bauer or Oakley aviator cut visors provide the same appearance.

Stick: Warrior Covert DT1 (red graphics)

A truer form of the word sniper may not be known when you consider the type of player Kovalchuk is. He certainly serves as an excellent poster boy for Warrior to show off the benefits of their Covert stick line. Kovalchuk uses a big right handed curve and sports a unique red based graphics package on his DT1.

Beat the dog days with the Great Skate Summer Sale

Great Skate 30th Annual Summer Sale

Great Skate 30th Annual Summer Sale August 1st – 10th, 2013

As the summer days roll along and the temperatures continue to rise, there’s one event on the horizon that will have you thinking of cold, wintry weather in no time.

The 30th annual Great Skate Summer Sale is kicking off on August 1 and will continue through to August 10. The sale is available online, at greatskate.com and at our Buffalo, NY store. In addition to phenomenal deals on this year’s best equipment, you will have the opportunity to demo hockey’s newest releases and take part in a number of exciting giveaways and promotions.

Bauer, CCM, Easton, Reebok and Warrior will each be participating in demo days between August 5 and 9 that will feature each manufacturer’s newest sticks and equipment. Players will have the opportunity to demo the newest sticks which will be hitting the market along with trying on each company’s newest gear between 10am and 6pm each day that the demos take place.

Along with providing a unique demo of their newest equipment and sticks, Easton will also be providing an opportunity for a team to win a full set (18) of Easton composite sticks for the season. All you need to do is provide your full team roster to enter the drawing for the team set.

Bauer is getting in on the fun as well, offering a week’s worth of prizes that run from Monday through Friday and include a Ryan Keseler James VanRiemsdyk and Patrick Kane sticks, a new pair of Vapor APX skates and Friday’s grand prize of Bauer sticks for a year.

The Summer Sale will also feature one of the newest Buffalo Sabres as Buffalo’s own Justin Bailey will be on hand from 5pm to 6pm on August 1. You will have a chance to test your shot against Bailey and see how you stack up against an NHL draft pick.

Bailey won’t be the only competition Summer Sale guests will have for shooting. Warrior is sponsoring the Warrior Hockey Chara Challenge which will be a fastest shot competition with giveaways that include Warrior merchandise and a Dynasty AX1 stick.

In addition to the Chara Challenge, Warrior will be providing one lucky winner with two tickets to the 2014 Winter Classic at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan with $200 spending money and one night’s hotel accommodations for the game.

Be sure not to miss your opportunity to take home any one of the terrific prizes that will be up for grabs while also taking advantage of all the phenomenal deals that will provide up to 80% savings on select items.

The 30th annual Great Skate Summer Sale kicks off on August 1, be sure you don’t to miss a minute.

Warrior protective makes strides with new features

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Shoulder Pad

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Hockey Shoulder Pad

It’s been a while since I’ve been in the market for new protective gear – both in net or playing forward. On a recent trip to Great Skate I was trying on some different elbow pads an noticed one common theme; elbow pads have become incredibly bulky.

The whole host of offerings from Bauer down to Warrior just didn’t feel perfect on my arm. I noticed a relatively similar pattern with some of the back leg designs on shin pads and all over the shoulder pads each company has out currently. Warrior, however, had some nice anatomic features on their protective line which I took as a major benefit when perusing their Dynasty protective line.

Warrior’s Axysym technology is something that has been integrated throughout their equipment for 2013. From sticks to goaltender chest pads, it is a fit system designed to maximize mobility without sacrificing protection. The primary areas affected by the Axysym design on the protective line is the forearm and bicep wrap (elbow pad), the shin and calve area (shin pad) and the chest (shoulder pad).

The way Warrior worked the Axysym into each piece of equipment managed to focus the fit of the equipment on the portion of the body that needed the most freedom of movement. In addition, Warrior’s Sling Wrap (elbow pad and shin pads) and 2-Timer straps allow for a snug, fully adjustable fit for the wearer.

Specifically with the Sling Wrap, the strap focuses on the one area which can use the most additional support. The Sling Wrap will keep you from doing the raised arm elbow pad pull 200 times per game. Add in the 2-Timer strapping which appear to be a more heavy duty Velcro strap system designed to fit you well and not move during the course of a game.

The shin pads look particularly snug as the Sling Wrap strap ends just below the knee on the front but actually comes up and around the calve at a 45-degree angle (as opposed to just wrapping straight around). In addition the primary strap keeps the protective calf wrap fully secured.

Perhaps the single most impressive feature on Warrior’s protective line is the 2-Way Smart Cap system. The knee and shin areas, elbow and shoulder caps are all built with a multi-layer cap that includes compressed plastic along with HD foam as well. The shoulder and elbow caps actually have a four-layer build that includes the 2-Way foam cap (meets NHL standards) along with the compressed plastic and HD foam. The shin pad is more of a traditional build with the hard plastic shell and HD foam over the comfort liner.

All of the Warrior protective gear uses the yellow War-Tech liner system with Polygiene bacteria and odor fighter built in. This is an impressive line from top to bottom that builds nicely on the reputation Warrior already carries in their stick and glove construction.

When the time finally comes to ditch my current gear, the Dynasty line will be one of the first sets that I strap on in the store.

Industry Q&A: Keith Perera – Warrior Hockey

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

For this Q&A we have tabbed Keith Perera from Warrior Hockey. Keith handles the stick business for Warrior and can be found on Twitter @warriorstickguy. His Q&A gives some very cool insight to his role with Warrior, some interesting pro requests and where Warrior’s unique graphics and nicknames come from.

Great Skate:  Your Twitter account says you’re the “Warrior Stick Guy”. More or less that sounds like just about every hockey player’s dream job. Tell us a little bit about your day-to-day work.

Keith Perera: Stick Guy is a moniker I stole from an old colleague at Mission Hockey.  He actually had “Stick Guy” on his business card!  I was the “young skate guy” at the time, so I always remembered it.  My day-to-day in simple terms is planning out the product line for future global releases, working with the development team on future technology, crafting the story behind every technology and informing the sales and marketing groups on our stick product and direction.  PMs also work closely with our dealer base and players to come up with new products or technologies that are not currently met in the market.  Making better products to make players better is our main objective.

 

GS: As a guy born in Montreal, raised in LA and now working in Michigan, what type of hockey background do you have?

 

KP: I have a very unique hockey background.  I was born in Montreal where my passion for hockey developed.  I moved to LA at a young age, a couple years after the Gretzky trade, and experienced the hyper-growth of our game through ice and roller hockey.  I started working in a hockey shop at 16yrs old, managed it through college, and got a job at Mission Hockey’s Warranty Department after college.  Worked my way up the ranks to Skate Product Manager (PureFly) and had a short stint in the golf business before landing at Warrior where I began as PM for Sticks/Protective/Goalie.  It’s been a wild ride, but I’ve been very fortunate to have amazing mentors along the way.  Our industry is a great one.

GS: Lefty or righty?

KP: Right Handed but I shoot Lefty.

GS: Pattern?

KP: I’m using an old Toews Pro pattern…like if E28 and W03-Kopitar had a baby.  When using retail pattern, I float between Kopitar and Kovalev…I’m not very good, so I always blame my sticks :)

GS: Flex?

KP: 85

GS: Velvet Grip, Nipple Grip or basic finish?

KP: I’ve always been an Innovative guy, from the beginning when we used to sell them in our store …so I love the old Polarfibre grip feel.  But these days I use a Matte clear finish with diamond texture (have I mentioned yet that I love my job?).

GS: Do you work with NHL professionals too? If so, what are some of the crazier requests you’ve gotten from the pros you work with.

KP: I do work with Pros sometimes.  Warrior has an amazing team of Pro Reps that have the relationships and are very skilled at figuring out what a pro player needs for their sticks.  Most of my work is done from the standpoint of guiding the Pro Sales Team on direction for what we showcase in pro to help promote our new retail sticks at any given time during the season.  Craziest request: Without a doubt – Ryan Smyth asking us to make a graphite blade “look like wood”…I call it “flesh blade”- it’s kinda gross.

GS: Who is/was your favorite NHLer to work with? Who was the toughest?

KP: It’s a tie: Best two guys ever… Nicklas Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne for skates.  Selanne is probably the nicest guy I’ve ever met and Lidstrom is purest form of class.  Toughest…no comment.

GS: What struggles, if any, have you dealt with working for a company that – when Warrior first jumped into hockey – may not be considered a “traditional” hockey manufacturer?

KP: Great question.  The biggest challenge for Warrior, is what I call, the “post-launch hangover”.  We blew out the doors with an amazing marketing buzz and on-ice product recognition (bright colors/crazy graphics) and it really helped us become the fastest growing hockey brand in this industry’s history.  After that, Dealers and Consumers wanted more from us and needed a reason to buy Warrior for performance and less for standing out in a crowd.  In the last two years, we have been working very hard to give that reason to the consumer.  Our product line has become very focused, very simple, and very high in performance.  Gone are the Dragons and Kroniks.  I can honestly say that Covert and Dynasty lines of product are the very best Warrior/Innovative have made in relation to performance, game-improvement and durability – ever.

GS: Warrior has two very cool sticks on the market, the Covert and the Dynasty. Which suits your game best, and why?

KP: I know this is a total bail-out move, but I like both for very specific reasons:  The Covert’s low kick is ideal for me since I take mostly wrist shots in my beer league.  I love the feel of the True1 construction.  I like the Dynasty’s AxySym since I can really feel the recoil power on slap shots during our company morning skate.  In a more relaxed environment, I have the time to wind up for a slap shot and it feels amazing.  Again, I’m not a very skilled player, so I need all the time I can get!

GS: Both stick lines are full of groundbreaking features, which stood out to you the most during the development process and now that it has hit the market?

KP: Dagger Taper for me is probably the tech that stands out the most.  It’s a very simple visual and tangible concept that takes advantage of our manufacturing ability to achieve the very best performance gains for a player.  True1 allows Dagger Taper to really flex down in the area where, in the past, fuse joints used to be.  We took that “dead flex area” and made it active and lively which most players need.  Dagger allows flex with very little effort; a true game-improvement feature that we were fortunate enough to get a patented.  The feature that is the most “under the radar” is probably TwinSpar.  Adding those two carbon structures to our blades has made huge improvements on our blade durability and pop-life…it’s a great under the hood feature that most people enjoy the benefits of but rarely actually see.

GS: I personally love my Dynasty AX1, what has been the type of feedback you’ve been getting on both the Covert and Dynasty?

KP: The Covert has been a joy.  The performance benefits to players and the quick-release has been awesome to see, especially for players using DT4 and DT5.  The Dynasty was a huge surprise for me.  I honestly didn’t expect so many people to love the feel of the mid-kick and how smooth the stick is to load and release.  It’s really a great time at Warrior.

GS: I noticed Mikhail Grigorenko of the Buffalo Sabres using a white Covert. Will more colors be available to the retail market, or is that a custom option only?

KP: More colors will be available in our retail line with the intro of our New Covert later this year (more info to come later).  Right now, an all-white stick similar to Grigo is available on the customizer.

GS: Going back to the Dolomite and some of Warrior’s earlier stick models, you guys have always had some cool nicknames and artwork for the features you develop. Who comes up with the taglines and logos for these?

KP: It’s a collaboration between myself and our stick designer, Isaac.  He has been with Innovative/Warrior since the beginning of both companies and has been amazing to work with…he’s a technically and aesthetically creative force.  We are both a little quirky and it certainly shows in some of the graphics we worked on in the past.  Our graphics now have become a little more simplified from far, but if you still look closely we always sneak some unique details in there (mid kick logo is a great example).  We are Warrior, always will be…so we embrace being different and having fun all the while building legitimately high performing product and technology.

GS: Both the Dynasty and Covert unveiled some very cool features to the stick world. What can we expect from Warrior in the coming months and years?

KP: I was just saying this to one of our sales guys…it’s a very very exciting time at Warrior.  We have built an amazing product foundation with Covert and Dynasty.  We have learned a lot along the way for what our consumer expects from us and how we can deliver product that will always challenge that.  Our company was started in a Princeton University dorm room, by a kid from Michigan who thought that the Lacrosse industry was too old and “too set in their ways”.  He made a Titanium shaft that shook the industry and changed the game…that spirit lives in everything we do.

What they’re wearing: Mikhail Grigorenko

What they’re wearing: Mikhail Grigorenko

What they’re wearing: Mikhail Grigorenko

What they’re wearing will be a new feature for the Great Skate Blog which will focus in on the gear being worn by players from around the NHL. These posts will focus on both skaters and goaltenders so both groups of players are well represented. Hopefully this series not only gives you a better idea of what your favorite players are wearing, but clue you in to which gear you may be looking to pick up the next time you’re at Great Skate.

My first target for WTW is Mikhail Grigorenko, the top prospect in the Sabres system. He was up and down with the big blub this year but managed to wear quite a bit of gear during his time. This breakdown is based on his final game of the year against the Islanders, but I will reference a few other games too.

Skates: Bauer Supreme TotalOne

One of the few pieces of gear he didn’t change at any point during his time with the Sabres. A solid skate with a tough, rigid construction, the TotalOne is immensely popular at the NHL level and there are a number of models in the Supreme line available at Great Skate.

Gloves: Bauer 4-Roll

Grigorenko was quite loyal to the Bauer Supreme TotalOne glove for most of the season but was sporting the 4-Roll for the season finale on April 26 (see entry image). Both gloves are great choices. The 4-roll is a classic fit that is more or less the go-to for most professionals. It is a clean, traditional look with a clean, traditional fit. The Supreme is design for maximum ergonomic feel and responsiveness and moves beautifully with your hand when playing. For a gifted playmaker like Grigorenko, the TotalOne makes a whole lot of sense. Of course, you can never go wrong with the 4-roll.

Helmet: CCM Vector 08 with Oakley Pro Straight visor

Grigroenko sports the wildly popular CCM Vector shell with a Oakley Pro Straight visor. The Pro Straight is used by just about every NHLer who wears a visor and provides excellent clarity to the wearer. Grigorenko uses the 08 Vector with a more traditional foam liner rather than the EPP foam with the heat molded pad liner that is found on the Vector 10 model. Either way, it is a good looking helmet and one that I’ve been seriously contemplating for a purchase for some time.

Stick: Warrior Covert DT1 (white)

This is the reason I wanted to choose Grigorenko for this first installment. He has used a number of sticks throughout the season. While I can’t be sure, he may have been trying out an RBZ at one point as well. However, there is proof of him using the Covert throughout the year and in the final game. What is very interesting is that he’s switched sticks in the middle of games at times. Against the Rangers he went from the Covert to an APX and it wasn’t the first time I picked up on it. He also used a TotalOne early in the year.

While I’m fascinated by his choice to just rotate sticks whenever he wanted (he is a pro after all) I think the all-white Covert looks awesome. The Dagger Taper on the Covert is an awesome feature and I’m a sucker for all-white sticks. Great choice if you ask me.

Feel free to leave your recommendation for the next edition of WTW in the comments.

2013 NHL Playoff Preview

2013 NHL Playoff Preview

GreatSkate.com 2013 NHL Playoff Preview Today marks the opening day of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. This begins a month-long saga that will

Today marks the opening day of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. This begins a month-long saga that will lead to one team hoisting the Stanley Cup. While most expect the Blackhawks and Penguins to cruise through to the Cup Finals, don’t count any team out. This is the best tournament in all of sports and the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of each period, game and series makes it such.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh vs. New York Islanders

Pittsburgh is on the top of the heap of everyone’s favorite to advance to the Cup Finals. Looking at their roster as it compares to the Islanders (specifically in this series) you can see why so many are expecting them to advance. Last year, on my personal Sabres blog (twointhebox.com), I expected the Islanders to
make the playoffs. I was one year off but I think this is an organization on the rise. However, I don’t think they’re deep enough to run with the Penguins. Simply put, the Penguins have too many horses. Pens in 5

Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators

A very interesting matchup and the first of two Northeast Division showdowns. Ottawa has begun to tail off lately as I believe their injuries are beginning to catch up. This could be a very interesting series to track but I wonder if the Senators youth could bite them here. This will certainly be a battle and I do believe that Montreal will be in for a dogfight. Montreal in 6

Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers

A week ago the Rangers were staring a first round series with the Penguins square in the face. Fast forward to the start of the first round and they’re looking at the Southeast Division winner, a much more comfortable matchup. The Caps are talented but I feel that the Rangers have built the momentum they’ve been searching for and will roll through the first round series. Don’t count out Ovie & Co. but I don’t see them advancing. Rangers in 6

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto has started to skid and skid hard. I don’t think they’re as talented as their finish showed and I don’t think they will fare well in a seven-game series with the Bruins. Boston’s struggles shouldn’t be ignored but I think they will have at least one more round to work them out. Bruins in 4

Eastern Conference Champion: Montreal over Pittsburgh in seven games.

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild

Minnesota made the postseason by the skin of their teeth and are rewarded with the league’s best team. While the Blackhawks goaltending is the only looming question mark, I don’t think the Wild will have the depth to truly test the Blackhawks. Blackhawks in 5

Anaheim Ducks vs. Detroit Red Wings

All playoff series rely on goaltending, so it is hard to say that one will need better goaltending than another. However, if Anaheim’s tandem is off they are a very average team in net. If Hiller or Fasth are on top of their game, then it is an entirely different story. This will be a very interesting series to track. Wings in 7

Vancouver Canucks vs. San Jose Sharks

It seems like these two teams are perennially meeting in the postseason. Fans in San Jose keep waiting for this franchise to take the next step but opening with the Canucks probably isn’t the way to do it. The Canucks are deep and talented. I think the Sharks are preparing to retool in some areas of their roster and may make a quick exit. Canucks in 5

Los Angeles Kings vs. St. Louis Blues

The Kings swept the Blues last year when Brian Elliott fell apart in the second round. I like the Blues – and as a Sabres fan I’d like the pick in the Leopold trade to be a fourth – but I wonder if they can hold up this year now that they’ve shored up their depth in many areas. At the end of the day this is the defending champs and I think that gets the job done in this room. Kings in 7

Western Conference Champion: Vancouver over Chicago in seven games

Stanley Cup Champion: Vancouver over Montreal in six games

In the Crease: Maintaining your gear

Perhaps no one position relies more on their equipment than goaltenders. From your skates to your helmet, every piece of gear can be used to make a save and is therefore vital in each and every game. Making sure your equipment is maintained is an important part of playing between the pipes.

While goaltending equipment is anything but fragile, it is important to ensure it is maintained properly. Ensuring to properly dry and store your equipment is an obvious rule of thumb but there are some other actions you can take to ensure your gear will help you perform at an elite level.

- Maintain the shape of your glove’s pocket

Each model of catching gloves have different features and construction methods for the pocket. Some have a hockey lace pocket, some use basic twine. Some have a split-T, some a reinforced-T and others a simple single-T. However, it is vital to make sure your pocket maintains proper integrity at all times.

A simple way to do this is to pop a softball in your glove when you’re storing it. This may not work for those of you who dry their gloves in the open position. But whenever you have the opportunity, toss a regular softball in the pocket.

The size of the softball will keep the T fully shaped and also keep the twine or lace pulled out with the T. This will ensure that the pocket will not collapse or lose its original structure. While it may not seem like much, it will help with popouts when making saves with your glove and sealing on the ice when covering the puck.

- Save your laces

All goal pads come with very generic twine to tie your skates into the pad at the toe bridge. This twine isn’t the best option for you to use when tying your pads into your skates. One of the first things I do when I get a new set of pads (which isn’t often enough) is to pull out the stock twine that the pad is manufactured with and replace it with skate lace.

Skate lace is far more durable than the stock twine and can also be adjusted to any length that you’re comfortable with. Using skate lace will give you a long-lasting product on a portion of your pad that is under constant stress and wear. Skate last will last far longer than the life expectancy of the stock twine.

The skate lace will also allow you to cut it to the exact length you prefer when tying in your pads will all but eliminate the lace from either coming untied or hanging down around the ice during games or practices. Stepping on a loose piece of twine is a terrifying feeling and putting your own skate lace in will make you feel very secure.

Another helpful hint with the lace: don’t buy a brand new set of laces for this. Collect old or ripped laces from around the locker room (or if you replace your laces). You don’t need a full 96” lace for your pads and even an old, ripped lace will be cut and adjusted anyway.

- Make those laces last

Most goal skates have a full plastic cowling these days. The plastic is rounded and smooth which makes the area between the blade and cowling an area far less susceptible to wear. However, older skates and some lower price point models still have exposed steel. Whether you have a full-plastic cowling or exposed steel, it is wise to wrap tape around those areas your pad lacing and straps will rub against. The tape will limit wear and add life to those parts of the pad. Once again, another nice way to prevent the laces that you use to tie into your pads from ending up on the ice.

- Dry your pads upside down

This is only a recommendation you should follow if you really like having a significant s-curve in your pads. If you prefer or use a stiffer pad, don’t try this. By storing your pads upside down, the wettest portion (the bottom) will help to add pressure on the rest of the pad while drying, thus slowly creating a more pronounced s-curve. I used this on my old Vaughn Velocity models and it led to great closure along the ice and at the five hole when I was in the butterfly. I have since stopped since going to a longer pad that has a different construction.

The main drawback is that this will shorten your pads over their lifetime. So if you don’t have a tall enough pad, or don’t want to lose that vertical length, don’t give this a try. However, the s-curve it creates will help when the pads are on the ice.

If I were to go back to a leg pad with a softer construction (Velocity or even Bauer’s new Reactor) I’d consider flipping my pads once again. This is definitely not for everyone, but I loved the way my pads performed when I tried it.

- Treat your gear as well as you want to play

This is more about the mindset associated with playing the game more than anything else. As the saying goes, “look good, play good” (sic). If you’re happy with how your gear feels and performs, you’re likely to respond in a similar manner. If your equipment is soggy, feels awful and is breaking down, you probably won’t play very well.

Make sure you fully air out your equipment, take sweatbands out of your helmet or other removable areas on your gear. You should want your gear to last as long as possible and perform at the maximum level. Hopefully these tips will steer you in the right direction.