Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Defense & goalies

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Defense & goalies

Predicting the 2014 USA Olympic Roster – Defense & goalies

Now that I’ve taken a look at the forwards who I expect to make the US Olympic team for the 2014 Olympics, let’s take a look at the group of players who will be keeping the puck out of the net.

I feel like there is going to be a ton of turnover between 2010 and 2014 on the blueline. A boatload of young Americans have come up through the ranks and are ready to take on a major role in Sochi. Gone will be guys like Tim Gleason and Ryan Whitney to be replaced by young stars who will move well on the big surface:

Ryan Suter (A)      Ryan McDonagh      Brooks Orpik

Keith Yandle      Kevin Shattenkirk      John Carlson

Paul Martin

  Ryan Suter returns to my roster with an increased leadership role from 2010. He was a minute hog in Vancouver and certainly will be again in Sochi. Pairing him with Ryan McDonagh is a no brainer for me. McDonagh might just be the best defenseman of this group and should only get better with another year under his belt. This will be the shutdown pairing for the United States.

Brooks Orpik happens to be one guy who I’m on the fence on. He’s a guy I love to watch and a player who holds a lot of value in my opinion. I also think that he’s a quality defender who won’t get caught in the wash on the big ice. However, I could see his footspeed as an issue to the decision makers.

Regardless, Orpik and Keith Yandle make up my mixed second pairing. Yandle, a straight-ahead puck mover should be complimented well by Orpik’s steady, stay-at-home style quite well. Unlike my top pair who has the ability to contribute at both ends, this is a pairing which will need to feed off each other to be successful.

Kevin Shattenkirk and John Carlson make up my final pairing of quality two-way defenders. Shattenkirk is more of an offensive threat but Carlson has an all-around game that is perfect for the short Olympic tournament. He also happens to be a seasoned international participant (remember his WJC triumph?) which helps his resume.

Paul Martin is penciled is as defenseman number seven for now as he has really rounded back into form these past few years. I think he has the mobility to be effective on the big ice and will bring a very nice presence to the roster because of that.

In net the Americans are stacked. Vezinas, playoff veterans and a Conn Smythe dot resumes of American keepers that will be eligible for a spot. How Dan Bylsma plans to sort this out is anyone’s guess, but I have a good feeling about the guys I take.

G

Jimmy Howard

Jonathan Quick

Ryan Miller

 

You’re probably wondering why I have Howard over Quick. I just feel that Quick is better suited to play the type of teams the US will be seeing on a big surface. Quick is such an aggressive goaltender that I worry his tendencies will be exploited while playing on an Olympic surface.

Howard plays a slightly more measured game which seems to have less of an opportunity to be hurt by rebound or back-door opportunities. That isn’t to say that Quick isn’t deserving of the starting job, but I just have a sneaking suspicion that Howard may fare better on the big ice (he’s also seen a couple World Championships).

Ryan Miller makes my roster on the darkhorse ticket. His numbers have fallen off but he’s played his best hockey in Olympic years. I have little doubt that this trend will continue in the 13-14 season and he may even steal the starting job again if he has a stellar opening to the year as he did in 2010.

As for the watchlist on the backend, here’s a few names to keep an eye on:

Cam Fowler – A young prospect who could certainly steal a spot if he catches fire this season. I doubt that he’s a primary target but I wouldn’t doubt if his play merits consideration.

Jake Gardiner – Same boat as Fowler in many respects. He’s a great puck mover who might garner attention with a strong start to the season.

Justin Faulk – If the United States management team is looking for an offensive x-factor, Faulk will be it. Paul Martin is a nice two-way player as the seventh defenseman but Faulk could certainly make the team as a power play specialist defenseman.

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.

On the Ice: Easton Mako skates

Easton Mako Ice Hockey Skate

Easton Mako Ice Hockey Skates

Our second installment of On the Ice comes in a different gear category than the initial review of the Warrior Dynasty stick. I’ve been able to try out a pair of Easton’s newest skate, the Mako.

The Mako is a new release from Easton and actually is a standalone product compared to the Stealth skate line which offers a number of different models to select. The focus of this skate is all about speed. From the heat moldable composite upper, the new CXN holder, aggressive pitch angle and the new Extendon feature, the Mako is designed for the sole purpose of speed.

With a composite construction the Mako skate is incredibly light and that feature is something that is noticeable from the first time you take it off the wall. However, the boot design offers more than just weight reduction. Easton’s asymmetrical design is focused to increase side-to-side agility for the player. In addition, the aggressively angle of the boot and holder offer a forward pitch that is not only conducive for straight ahead speed but also cornering and agility.

These features help to promote Easton’s new “Art of Speed” slogan. However, they aren’t just window dressings. The aggressive forward pitch and lightweight construction are complimented by the Extendon guard; built to promote the natural stride of a hockey player. The Extendon is a new take on the typical tendon guard on a normal pair of skates – and it does take a little getting used to. The slightly longer guard is designed to not only promote full extension in loading your stride but also immediate recovery after pushing off. It almost serves like a rubberband in a sense; aiding the skater in each and every stride.

The general look of the skate is somewhat odd, especially if you’re someone who is used to a traditional skate with a black boot and white holder. However, the sharp orange accents the compliment the black and silver on the boot looks pretty great. In fact, for as funky of a design this skate has, it passes the mirror test with flying colors.

It’s also appealing to more and more NHL professionals. Easton athletes like Derek Roy were wearing the Mako throughout this season and it was gaining a strong foothold (no pun intended) with the professional crowd. For a regular guy like myself, if was thoroughly impressed with the skate.

Out of the Box

If there is one thing that needs to be impressed upon anyone considering this skate it is that you cannot judge the fit before you bake it. Not only is the entire boot thermally formed but the tongue is as well. When you first put the skate on it is stiff, narrow and rather unforgiving. In fact, it is incredibly difficult to lace prior to being baked. However, once these are baked they are an entirely different skate. Your foot will slide into the boot like butter and once you’re laced up the skate actually wraps itself around your foot.

The reason I feel it is so important to impress this upon you is because this skate is designed to be fully customized to the wearer’s foot. While other skate models feel better once they’ve been baked, the Mako has to be baked. The result ends up being a ridiculously comfortable skate that is formed around your entire foot.

The Extendon feels a little different when you first get the skates on and it is because it sits a little closer to your leg (as it is designed to move back and forth with your stride) which creates an unusual sensation when you first lace up the skates. However the adjustment period for that is short as there is no discomfort created by the feature.

Another thing that threw me off was the tongue. It is fully heat formed and has a thick plastic insert on the top. Before baking it is somewhat cumbersome and difficult to deal with. Once you’ve baked the skates it is pliable and ends up contouring around the top of your foot and up through the ankle. Like with the initially stiff boot, the tongue is a completely different piece of the puzzle after the skates spend some time in the oven.

On the Ice

While I needed to wait a couple of weeks to get these on the ice, I didn’t have a ton of time to break them in at home. Aside from lacing them up a couple of times while watching TV, the skates didn’t get too much time to be broken in prior to their first ice time. This was a major concern for me at my first game in them.

Yet, after my first game I felt no ill effects. I didn’t have any blisters, my feet weren’t sore and I was amazed that after baking the skate and sporting it for a couple of hours at home that these were game ready. While your experience may differ a bit, I’ve found that most who are using the Mako determined they are all but game ready after getting baked and forming to your feet.

I have to say this was a major relief to me after watching my college teammates suffer through breaking in skates year after year.

The biggest adjustment for me on the ice was the forward pitch of these skates. Coming from CCM Pro Tacks, I was used to a flatter attack angle and a wider boot. The Mako has a much more pronounced forward pitch in addition to a more narrow fit. While the fit itself never became an issue, I found myself a little wobbly when I took my first few spins around on the skates. In fact, I had one moment early in the game in which I took twice the amount of time to turnaround than I usually would because I was still unsure on my feet.

What does all of that mean? Are these that difficult to get used to? The answer is no. By the midpoint of the first period I had fully settled into the skates and I can now say after a few ice times that these are a truly incredible product.

I am by no means a fast skater. In fact I’d contend that while technically sound I am actually brutally slow. Yet I’ve noticed my strides have been more powerful lately and my straight line speed has actually increased. The reason I can say that this is so noticeable is the way the skate feels if you take hard, aggressive strides. The construction of the boot and holder are so conducive to complimenting the motion of skating that you do feel the skate reacting with you as you go up and down the ice.

Easton hit it out of the park with the Mako skate. It is a highly evolved product that gives you noticeable results when you wear them. So long as you understand the difference in fit between the skate out of the box and the skate out of the oven, I’m confident that this would be on top of everyone’s shopping list when they’re looking for new skates.

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.

Industry Q&A with Mike Mountain about the new Easton VSeries sticks

Easton V - Series Composite Hockey Sticks

The Easton V – Series Composite Hockey Sticks. coming soon to Greatskate.com

A new feature for the blog, we will be sitting down with professional hockey players and industry professionals for a series of Q&As. For our first Q&A we were granted an exclusive opportunity to as Mike Mountain of Easton Hockey a few questions about their newest stick line, the VSeries.

Great Skate: Easton has always managed to raise the bar with each stick they release. What about the new stick line, that you can share, will raise the bar again?

Mike Mountain: The VSeries is really a product of a couple years working with premier shooting instructors and getting a better understanding of shooting mechanics.  We wanted to understand what makes the best goal scorers and then build a product that works with that technique better than anything out there.  We learned that the best players are loading the blade and shooting the puck off the toe.  Our engineers then created the patent pending Hypertoe construction.  It is a series of tapered ribs in the toe of the blade to create additional stiffness and response.

 GS: The Art of Speed is the tagline Easton has been using on the new gear coming out, including the new Mako Skates. Is it safe to say the new stick line will build on the Art of Speed legacy?

MM: Speed is at the core of everything we do.  In sticks we are focused on velocity.  How you achieve it is to create load and release in both the shaft and blade.  Everything that went into the line from patterns and flex’s to coatings and stick lengths are done to create load and release for a maximum velocity.

 GS: Is it correct that the V9E will be the flagship of the new stick line or will there be another model to accompany it?

MM: The V9E and V9 will headline the VSeries.  Both sticks will have the Hypertoe construction in the blade while the V9E will have the elliptical profile and the V9 will have a tapered profile.

GS: It has been cool to see various NHLers using prototype sticks this season without any logos. What can we expect with the V9E color and logo scheme?

MM: You will see those same players transition to the new look in the first round of the playoffs.  We wanted them to truly feel the difference of the new construction and not be swayed by graphics.  The response we got was great in terms of a noticeable performance advantage.

GS: Will the VSeries carry the matte look that the Stealth line has popularized?

MM: They will, we have also added a textured shaft coating that goes along with it.

 GS: In addition to the elliptical profile on the V9E will there also be a model with a traditional taper too?

MM: The VSeries will include a V9E, V5E and V1E with an elliptical profile as well as a V9, V7 and V3 with a tapered profile.

GS: What’s your favorite feature or addition about the new line?

MM: We have added a new pattern to our line, the E36.  It is a lie 5 mid curve with a dual lie and slightly open face.  Like the E28, this pattern forces your hands in the correct position in front of the puck while positioning the heel slightly off the ice in order to load the blade.  The junior version has been engineered specifically for younger players with the curve slightly towards the toe to provide better control.  So far the reception to this pattern has been phenomenal with players.

CCM helmets boom in popularity

CCM Hockey Helmets

This shot of the Maple Leafs’ bench shows all but three players wearing a CCM model helmet

Laying claim to the most popular piece of equipment in the NHL is no easy feat. With players using custom models – and even some prototypes – determining the most widely used piece of equipment might not be the easiest task.

However, just look up and down any NHL bench and you’ll see one obvious trend; more players in the world’s best league are using CCM helmets. In fact, I reached out to CCM on Twitter and found out the V08 model is the one that has become the most popular helmet in the NHL

The CCM shell design meets all the requirements that players look for. It has a narrow, low-profile look with plenty of ventilation and an overall design that passes the ever important mirror test. All of CCM’s helmets have a similar shell design, but only the VECT and V08 models use the same ventilation layout and on-the-fly adjustment tabs.

In fact, CCM’s helmets sport 19 total vents in various areas of the helmets to ensure maximum airflow for the wearer. The vent layout on the front of the helmet has a somewhat futuristic look to it that adds some attitude to the look of the shell.

What might be interesting to hear is the fact that the V08 has more popularity amongst professionals than the VECT model. However, the liner foam in the V08 is made up of dual-density VN foam that has long been wildly popular at the pro ranks. This type of liner is used by all manufacturers and although it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the liners used in each company’s top helmet model, it is extremely comfortable despite some of the technical shortcomings

CCM’s VECT model uses EPP foam with memory foam padding at strategic points in the liner. This combination provides excellent protection and actually offers some improvements over the traditional VN foam liner in the V08 model (CCM’s V06 model also uses the EPP and memory foam combo). When it comes down to choosing one model over the other the determination comes down to comfort.

What shouldn’t be ignored are the safety and comfort of the EPP and memory foam found on the VECT model. As someone who has used helmets that utilize both a traditional VN foam liner and the more advanced EPP with memory foam pads, I’m not sure if there is a clear favorite.

Amongst the numerous helmets I’ve donned are a Bauer 4500 and 5100 (current) along with a RBK 8K which, at the time, was their top model.

The 8K had the EPP and memory foam combo and was extremely comfortable to wear. The specific design of that helmet allowed for a lot of airflow and the memory foam pads were strategically positioned for maximum comfort. Much like my old 8K, I’m certain that the VECT liner construction will offer the same comfort if you should choose to make it your next purchase.

The main issue many have is that the EPP and memory foam combination doesn’t always feel as comfortable for all wearers. That is the beauty of the VN foam liner. It is a generic liner that cushions your head no matter what comfort level you’re seeking. While the foam doesn’t have the same properties as memory foam, the sweat and heat produced during play will help to break in the foam and it will end up molding to your head over time.

I’d have to say that if tasked with choosing a new helmet that a model with VN foam would be what I’d purchase. However, that shouldn’t direct you or anyone else from the protective qualities that a model, like the VECT, with EPP foam has. Ultimately it is all about finding the delicate balance between comfort and

Composite Mini Sticks

Bauer Vapor APX Mini Stick

Manufacturers bring top-end sticks to childhood favorite

 

Manufacturers bring top-end sticks to childhood favorite

Knee hockey is one of the numerous things that makes hockey what it is. Not many sports have a portable, miniature version that can be played just about anywhere.

Just think back to travel tournaments and the countless hotel hallways you were expelled from when playing knee hockey. Knee hockey just happens to be a portion of hockey culture that makes our sport so incredibly unique.

Not unlike the full size version of the sport, knee hockey has seen a number of advances in recent years. Manufacturers now make miniature nets (not necessarily a new development) which inevitably saves desks, tables, chairs and hallway radiators from the beating that comes along with the game. In addition, the days of dipping your straight-blade plastic stick in boiling water to create a curve are over. Now you can choose a mini stick from a plethora of choices that are near mirror images to the full size sticks made by hockey’s biggest manufacturers.

Warrior, Bauer, CCM, Reebok and Sher-Wood all have created their own composite mini sticks complete with curves and identical design patterns to that of the full size retail sticks you use on the ice. What these sticks do is add a little style and extra performance to a rec-room or travel tournament classic.

Reebok not only has a mini composite version of their new 20K stick, they also introduced a composite goal stick that is patterned after the 11K composite goal stick that is being used throughout the NHL – this follows previous miniature versions of the O-Stick and A.I.9. CCM also produced a mini composite of their premier stick with a mini RBZ. Like the 20K, the mini RBZ also sports the same markings and art that the top model does – although it doesn’t provide some of the technological advances that the full size stick does.

Both CCM and Reebok have their own net models as well which can be set up in your basement or rec room to add even more of an ice element to each knee game.

Bauer actually has a Vapor APX and TotalOne NXG for you to choose from while Sher-Wood’s collection spans the entire NHL. So, for those of you who are nostalgic for the straight plastic, team-branded sticks of the past, perhaps the Sher-Wood team models would provide a nice transition.

While I can’t attest if the composite mini sticks can add performance to your knee hockey game as their full-size cousins do for ice hockey, I can say they bring a cool wrinkle to a game that you should never need an excuse to play.

I, for one, am seriously considering setting up a knee hockey rink as part of my man cave in the very near future.

Late flurry defines 2013 deadline

Late flurry defines 2013 deadline

Late flurry defines 2013 deadline

If you were one of many hockey fans across North America glued to a TV set or phone waiting for trades
to break, today might have dragged. A flurry of action over the past five days dried up a significant
amount of the presumed trade targets entering the deadline. However, a few GMs managed to not
disappoint.

A handful of minor trades in the early afternoon did little to set the market before Tampa Bay sent Cory
Conacher and a draft pick to Ottawa in exchange for Ben Bishop. While this wouldn’t end up as one of
the day’s biggest trades it was significant enough to get the ball rolling.

The flurry of trades that came down prior to the 3:00 deadline were punctuated by deals that saw
established scorers Marian Gaborik and Jason Pominville moved along with a list of role and depth
acquisitions. What was most surprising was seeing the surging Columbus Blue Jackets come away as the
day’s most active team.

Columbus made four separate moves that included the day’s biggest blockbuster in which they acquired
sniper Marian Gaborik. The Jackets sent a handful of pieces to the Rangers in exchange for Gaborik in a
move that gives them a lethal weapon on the wing less than a year removed from trading Rick Nash to
the Rangers.

Columbus’ deal is the most earth shattering for a few reasons. First, Gaborik had been mentioned here
and there in rumors but wasn’t truly expected to move, especially compared to a player like Ryane
Clowe (who also ended up in New York). The second reason this is so surprising is that the Blue Jackets
entered the year with a new makeup after trading Nash and with every expectation to continue their
rebuild, their recent success turned them to a buyer and they went out and bought one of the most
expensive options on the market.

What shouldn’t be ignored with this deal is what the Rangers got in return. After not re-signing Brandon
Prust and trading two key depth forwards to Columbus in the Nash deal (Dubinsky and Anisimov) the
Blueshirts managed to gain a skilled depth forward (Derick Brassard) and a gritty winger (Derek Dorsett)
to go along with a late draft pick and a highly touted defensive prospect (John Moore). Add those three
to Clowe and the Rangers managed to get a little tougher despite losing a major offensive weapon.
While they gave up the most talent, they may not have lost the trade.

The next biggest deal of the day came out of Minnesota, where the Wild brought in a skilled scoring
winger in Jason Pominville. A solid two-way player, Pominville is effective in all situations (including the
PK) and is signed through next season at a relatively affordable $5.3M cap hit. Going back to Buffalo was
a plethora of pieces that includes two draft picks and two prospects.

The Wild get a lot more skill for their top six and Pominville should offer plenty of support to at roster
that already boasts Parise, Heatley, Koivu and PM Bouchard. The added bonus that Pominville doesn’t
hit free agency until next summer means that they can hopefully stretch this talent beyond this year’s

playoff push. Despite mortgaging quite a bit of talent, this was a strong move for the Wild as they look
to win now.

Buffalo is going all-in with their rebuilding mode, acquiring Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett with
Minnesota’s first round pick this year and a second round pick next year. The picks will be extremely
valuable for Darcy Regier as he holds 11 total picks in the first two rounds of the 2013, 2014 and 2015
drafts combined. Whether or not he uses those picks remains to be seen, but that is plenty of currency
for a GM who will most certainly be looking to wheel and deal in the offseason.

One interesting trade was the Bishop for Conacher deal. The Lightning spent a few assets to acquire
Anders Lindback over the summer before realizing that he may not be the answer long-term. All the
while, they went and gave the Senators an even better return for Bishop than what Ottawa paid for
him at least year’s deadline. While Steve Yzerman did good work to address his troubled goaltending
situation, he gave up quite a bit for two different pieces at the same position.

Meanwhile, Bryan Murray is probably laughing his way to the bank as he effectively traded a second
round pick for Cory Conacher and an additional fourth round pick. Conacher is going to have an impact
on the Senators roster for the foreseeable future (unless he regresses from this hot rookie year) all while
not costing Murray much of anything – as he still has Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner to protect the
net.

The majority of the major moves at this deadline came in the days prior to April 3. The acquistions of
Iginla, Morrow and Murray makes the Penguins the immediate winners based on their return and the
fact that they sacrificed very little to acquire those three players. Of course, if the Pens don’t hoist the
Cup, they won’t be the long-term winners of this deadline.

Still, Ray Shero put his team in the best position to succeed by acquiring the three players he did. While
his top defensive prospect and a first round pick went out the door, not all that much went along with it.
Credit is due to Shero for the way he maneuvered prior to the deadline and for the roster the Penguins
will enter the playoffs with.

Overall I’d have to say the Penguins come away as the big winner while the Rangers (surprised?) aren’t
far behind. If New York can get Clowe re-signed with the money they saved from Gaborik they will have
a bevvy of talented players to fill out the lines below the Nash-Richards power line.

I’m not sure if I can count the Bruins as winners for snagging Jaromir Jagr, but 68 should give Boston
a nice boost entering the playoffs. That type of savvy veteran can’t be overlooked on a team that is
already so incredibly talented.

If there are any losers at this deadline I’d be so bold to say that it is the Blues. While St. Louis did a great
job bringing in two solid veteran defensemen, they didn’t address their questionable goaltending (even
though they only allow 20 shots per game). While Leopold and Bouwmeester are great talents, the Blues
already boasted an impressive defensive corps. I wonder if these two trades will be enough to vault the
Blues into a playoff spot.

The one thing that does need to be remembered with the deadline is that you can’t truly declare a
winner until the Stanley Cup has been raised. In addition, many of these trades full value won’t be
realized until the draft picks have been used. When you take that into account, some of these moves
won’t have full value for at least two years. However, the Kings made some waves last year and went on
to win the Cup, with that in mind be sure to look back at what moves this year’s Cup winner made at the
deadline.

Easton Mako protective line reinforces Easton as a trendsetter

Easton Mako Shoulder Pads

Easton Mako Shoulder Pad

Easton Mako protective line reinforces Easton as a trendsetter

Easton entered 2013 fresh off a year in which the Stealth RS and Mako sticks made a big splash on the hockey world.

In terms of aesthetics alone, the Mako and Stealth’s clean look were monster hits with hockey players everywhere. The weight and performance of each stick brought them to the top of the heap when comparing the products that hit the market in 2012.

Easton’s prowess in stick making is well documented, going all the way back to the Synergy. In addition previous skate and glove lines have maintained impressive staying power in the hockey world. This year, the foremost leader in stick technology has taken a new and aggressive approach with their protetive equipment.

Brand new lines that bear the Stealth and Mako names are to be released and they both bring a new wrinkle to what options players have to wear underneath their uniform.

Both the Stealth and Mako lines feature a design rooted in maintaining a full range of motion for the wearer. The shoulder pads in particular focus on this with Easton’s Segmented FRM. However, that is where most of the comparisons will end.

While the elbow pads and pants for both lines share nearly identical traits, the shoulder pads and shin guards differ in many ways. The true variance is with the Mako line which has brought forth a number of new features and benefits as the Stealth protective gear is far more traditional in terms of features and design.

The new Mako shoulder pads is designed to provide an equally protective pad while utilizing lightweight and free moving design. This is accomplished with the new Conic Body Fit design feature which uses an asymmetric, cross-body closure and corresponding straps that adjust the entire unit.

The Conic Body Fit allows for almost an unobstructed range of motion for the player with a design that hinges around your back as opposed to over your shoulders. In addition to hinging in the back, the unit is built more like a shirt and less like a shawl (for lack of a better term). These two features minimizes the typical restrictions in twisting and rotating that a traditional shoulder pad – one that drapes you’re your shoulders – would have.

By providing a shoulder pad that fits and reacts in unison with your body, Easton is improving upon a method of maximizing protection (which this unit does) without limiting mobility.

The same type of features are found in the new Mako shin pad. Easton spent a great deal of time redeveloping the knee system in the pad in order to focus the center of gravity on that location while improving on the anatomical support.

In the same way that the Conic Body Fit system is designed to react to your upper body’s natural movement, the new anatomic knee on the shin guard is designed to move in unison with the natural bend of your knee.

Easton’s three-piece design incorporates a stiff, thick primary shin guard that covers an injected calf wrap which provides flexible wrap-around protection for the wearer.

What is particularly impressive about the Mako line is that a majority of the design features can be found with every model. This is not a protective line that leaves out features as you hit certain price points. While weight and performance will be limited when comparing the M3 to the Mako, the Conic Body Fit and other features aren’t ignored.

This – along with the Stealth – is an impressive line that shouldn’t be ignored the next time you’re at Great Skate shopping for protective equipment.

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

Warrior Dynasty AX1 Composite Hockey Stick

On the Ice: Warrior Dynasty AX1

On The Ice will be a recurring series that will focus on the on-ice performance of new equipment. I will take you through my thoughts and impressions of this equipment from taking it “out of the box” and after the first few ice times of use.

Warrior’s newest stick to hit the market is the Dynasty AX1. The Dynasty line actually features five different models at varying price points (AX1 through AX5) with the AX1 serving as the top professional model used by professionals and other top talents.

The Dynasty line is the first to feature Warrior’s new, groundbreaking AXYSYM technology in a stick. This system focuses high-compression fibers on the back and bottom of their sticks in order to increase the benefits of the stick’s flex. Combining with the natural flex and kick of the stick, the AXYSYM fibers stretch and compress as you shoot and are designed to put more power behind each shot.

The AX1 also utilizes the countless blade innovations that Warrior has created. The Aramid Sole and Carbonized finish add ridged strength to vital portions of the blade to ensure longevity and performance for the user. Warrior’s Twin Spar support system provides additional internal structure to the blade to resist bending while the Hardcore X maintains overall strength while reducing weight.

While the entire Dynasty line is designed with a mid kickpoint, the AX1 features a number of other features that aren’t found in each and every model. The AX1 is built with a high fusion point that moves the primary fusion point away from the blade and further up the shaft of the stick. In addition, Warrior has introduced the Strong Arm reinforcement that adds additional structure on the lower portion of the shaft.

As someone who has lost a majority of my sticks to breaks at or near the fuse point at the bottom of the shaft, I can say the HiFused and Strong Arm features are a welcome addition. Both aren’t noticeable the first time you pull a stick off the rack but one your stick starts taking the beating it incurs on a game-to-game basis.

Out of the Box

The first “out of the box” impression this stick makes is with the eye test. The AX1 has a sleek black and sliver finish that has a very professional look with a clear, uncluttered design. The basic design is amplified by the Slick Grip and Velvet Touch finish that my particular twig has. This finish is a two-fold feature that is the exact opposite of the typical grip finishes you get with other manufaturers.

What really stands out is the Velvet Touch. Quite literally the stick feels like velvet in your hands. An almost grimy feel at first, after you adjust the Velvet Touch is not only appealing but preferable –this is coming from a guy who likes a traditional grip finish, too. The velvet touch isn’t as noticeable with gloves on but the overall feel was solid when I did some stickhandling with gloves on.

Other immediate impressions that I found were with the mid kickpoint and the weight of the stick. I have previously used the Stealth RS, Total One, S19 and other extremely light one-piece sticks and this is right up there in terms of weight. The balance is also impressive as it maintained the same feel with tape as it did before I cut it down. Credit that to the HiFused fuse point and the mid kickpoint keeping the center of gravity in the center of the shaft.

My particular model is a 85 flex Zetterberg pattern. It is a nice mid curve with a slightly open toe and rounded toe. It’s the type of curve I prefer, but as you’re well aware, picking a curve and flex is up to the player and what they’re comfortable with.

Bottom Line: This is one of those sticks that makes you want to pull three off the rack, tape them up and hit the ice. It looks great and feels phenomenal the first time you hold it. The AX2 has a number of the features found on the AX1 at a slightly lower price point while the AX3, AX4 and AX5 models are all great sticks that offer terrific value while. However, the AX1 is truly the gem of the Dynasty line and it shows that at every turn.

On the Ice

An unfortunate scheduling situation forced me to wait nearly 14 full days before getting this stick on the ice. It was well worth the wait, in the end.

The first thing you notice about the stick is the Velvet Grip. Just like when pulling it off the rack, the Velvet Grip feels interesting when wearing your gloves. Personally I thought it was nothing short of perfect. It provides a tacky finish but isn’t even close to what a traditional grip finish feels like. A good way to describe it would be to say that it provides friction but not grip when you’re playing.

My biggest adjustment to the twig wasn’t the grip nor the incredible balance, but the blade. The past few sticks I’ve used have had a far thicker blade than the Dynasty and the feel for the puck with this blade was much different than the pro stock Total One I had been using previously. This isn’t necessarily a detraction so much as something I’ll need to adjust to.

All of the technology that Warrior poured into the blade is evident when you’re stickhandling, passing and shooting. The Twin Spar and Hardcore X features do their job well in allowing Warrior to pare down the profile of the blade while maintaining strength and rigidity. I noticed that my passing – particularly on the backhand – was much more crisp and my control of the puck was equally improved. Firing shots is where the thin blade threw me off as I spent most of the warm up adjusting to the feel of shooting with the stick.

Once the game started I was able to settle in and play my game. Shooting still wasn’t fully comfortable, but I was able to get off two acceptable attempts on net. My passing was great though. Aside from one that rolled off my blade, I saw marked improvement in moving the puck that I’m confident will translate to shooting the puck after another ice time or two.

This stick gets full marks from me. Any new piece of equipment comes with an adjustment period and sticks are no different. This is an incredibly light, responsive twig that feels great when you take it off the rack and once you get it on the ice. Four-and-a-half out of five stars for me.