Packing an equipment first-aid kit

Hockey Helmet Repair Kit

Hockey Helmet Repair Kit

What would happen if your lace snaps two minutes before warm up? What if your ear loop rips or a helmet buckle pops off? What if you need to re-work an edge on your skate or tighten up part of your helmet? Do you have the tools to address any of those issues or any others that crop up through the course of a hockey season?

If you answered no to any of those questions you should consider putting together an equipment first-aid kit and store it in your bag at all times.

In addition to a screwdriver (both a Phillips and a small flat-head) I also keep extra laces, helmet hardware and skate sharpening tool in my bag at all times. That way, if there are any unforeseen issues in the locker room, I’m not stuck with a faulty piece of equipment – or something that would prevent me from playing – for the game I’m preparing for.

Having some sort of emergency gear kit is particularly helpful if you’re on the road at a tournament or somewhere that may not have the comforts of you home rink. This is particularly important if a fully stocked pro shop isn’t at your disposal. Exactly what you deem to be important to have in your bag at all times comes down to your own personal discretion, but there are certainly some key items that no hockey coach or player should be without when you find yourself in a pinch.

  • Standard Phillips or flat-head screw driver: A vast majority of the hardware on your helmet or gear will require a Phillips screwdriver, but it doesn’t hurt to have one of each in the event that a flat-head is needed. This should be considered a must have for any bag.
  • Scissors: Again, an item that you won’t want to be in the event that you run into any sort of scenario where a quick fix is necessary. You don’t need to have this on you at all times, but it wouldn’t hurt either.
  • Allen wrench: This is getting a bit more technical, but it you happen to keep an Allen (or hex) wrench can help in the event that you need to tighten up something on your skates. This may be best used at home, but you may find it necessary in an emergency.
  • Extra laces: Whether you’re a waxed or non-waxed guy, don’t get caught with a ripped lace and nothing to replace it with. That’s the last situation you want to be in. An extra pair of laces aren’t going to take up much space and will turn out to be a life saver when you find out you need them.
  • Skate sharpening tool or stone: At the very least, a stone will allow you to work an edge back onto your skates if you’re in a pinch. I use something very similar to a Sweet Stick that basically re-sharpens your skates and works out burrs. The version I use happens to have a stone on it, so it’s the best of both worlds. Great Skate also carries the Skate Mate if that’s the product you’d prefer.
  • Helmet hardware: Just like with stocking a stone or Sweet Stick in your bag, having some sort of helmet hardware will save you in a pinch. This can be as simple as a few extra screws for your cage right up to a full Helmet Repair Kit with additional buckles and straps if you really want to go big.
  • Extra mouth guard: For those of you who are required to wear a mouth guard in your leagues, keep an extra one in your bag. This way, if you happen to drop yours at home, you have a back up handy.

Another key is having something to keep all of this in. Get a small shaving kit or toiletry bag and stash your backup gear and hardware in there. That way all of these small, loose items don’t get mixed in with your bag. If you have extra pockets on your bag, those work as a great place for them as well.

I use an outer pocket on my bag to hold my Sweet Stick, screwdriver, tape, extra laces, extra suspender straps (for my goalie pants) and additional helmet hardware. It never gets mixed in with my gear so it isn’t in the way and can’t get lost.

Keep some of these ideas in mind and the next time you or a teammate are in need remember that a simple equipment first aid kit would solve all of your problems. 

Ranking the NHL’s third jerseys

Buffalo Sabre's 2013-2014 Third Jersey

Buffalo Sabre’s 2013-2014 Third Jersey

Perhaps one of the perpetual cycles that NHL teams struggle most with is alternate jersey designs. Even when a team has a great one, something seems to crop up that causes them to change their threads.

As you may or may not remember, the third jersey craze really heated up in the 1995-96 season and has since skyrocketed to a perpetual cycle for most of the teams throughout the league. Not every team has a third jersey in active service, but most teams utilize some option as an alternate or for special occasions.

I base my preference of third jerseys off a handful of criteria which I have used to make a definitive ranking of the NHL’s alternate uniforms. A third jersey should offer a few specifics. First, proper use of the team’s color palette is a must. I prefer taking a complimentary color and using it as the jersey’s base. Second, using a different pattern than the primary uniforms is always nice. There isn’t much point in adding another traditional looking jersey to a pair that looks almost identical to it. Preferably a team with a more modern jersey set would go with a traditional design whereas a team with a traditional design would go in the other direction. The lone exception here is if a team goes with a full throwback style, typically those fit in well regardless of the team’s typical look. Finally, I like having the primary crest as a secondary and using a secondary crest as the primary. After all, most shoulder patches are a team’s alternate logo. Using the primary works just fine, but well done alternate logos are high on my list. What tends to happen is that some alternate crests don’t translate on a larger scale, which detracts from the jersey’s overall look.

Using my very particular tastes, I’ve taken the 19 teams with third jerseys and ordered them from best to worst. Here are my rankings:

  1.  St. Louis Blues: A perfectly executed alternate jersey. This takes a complimentary color and uses it as a primary, it gives a traditional take to a team with a more modern design standard and the circular crest is awesome. Full marks.
  2. Ottawa Senators: Like the Blues jersey, this offers a different, more traditional design standard when compared to the regular home and away jerseys. The crest couldn’t be any better and the whole jersey looks terrific.
  3. San Jose Sharks: The black and teal work too well together for this not to rank high on the list. A great, understated jersey that fits perfectly within the team’s identity; another important factor to consider with a third jersey.
  4. Vancouver Canucks: The first retro jersey on the countdown, Vancouver went with a complimentary design as opposed to one that stands out from their traditional jerseys. For a team that has so widely embraced that M.O., this jersey fits perfectly with their uniforms.
  5. Washington Capitals: Slotting in at five thanks to the nostalgia factor, these duds are a great throwback jersey that holds steady with the team’s current standard while taking everyone back by a few decades.
  6. New York Rangers: The New York vintage third jersey looks great. The traditional striping pattern works well with the team’s design standards. While the Lady Liberty jerseys will always be my favorite, these still look great. The vintage white does it for me.
  7. Los Angeles Kings: The Kings may deserve an asterisk here since they seem to be slowly doing away with their alternate jerseys. While this doesn’t meet many of the rules I set for proper third jersey design, the traditional throwback is a clear exception to the rule. Turning back the clock (like the Flames previous thirds) is an auto win for me because there is no way to screw them up.
  8. Minnesota Wild: The best overall set of uniforms in the league boasts one of the best third jerseys. While I think the crest leaves something to be desired, the overall design here looks awesome.
  9. Toronto Maple Leafs: Not much to see here, a throwback inspired jersey that looks great. It also looks a hell of a lot like their homes, so there isn’t much to judge.
  10. Phoenix Coyotes: Perhaps a surprise this high on the list, I love Coyotes alternates. The sand colored numbers, leaping Coyote and alternative striping pattern all work very well together. It offers a different look than the primary design even with a change in the crest, which can be a no-no.
  11. Colorado Avalanche: A blue version of their ultra-classy burgundy thirds from the early 2000s. While these certainly look nice, I’m not all that taken with them.
  12. Carolina Hurricanes: Alternate logos can be tricky if they’re overdone, but Carolina (and Phoenix for that matter) do a great job with theirs. The black-on-black shoulder patch and storm flag waist stripe are a little over the top in my opinion.
  13. Anaheim Ducks: What I like about this jersey is that they use the webbed-D as opposed to the out-of-place Ducks wordmark. What I don’t like it how the orange is incorporated. They get credit for not going orange with these – it just would’ve been too much to handle – but the way they incorporated it just doesn’t work for me. Not an appealing look.
  14. Boston Bruins: Holy vanilla, Batman. I don’t think the Bruins jerseys could get more boring than they currently are. I was a huge fan of the Pooh Bear thirds from the 90s and these are just so plain. No waist stripes hurt and I’m not sold on this particular alternate logo as a crest.
  15. Calgary Flames: The shoulder patch on these jerseys is so awesome. But the rest is just bad. It reminds me of a beer league softball jersey. Their throwback alternates were so perfect that these really pale in comparison.
  16. Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts wordmark really hurts these jerseys. I like the change in the design standard and the blue base looks cool. But the crest is out of place.
  17. Columbus Blue Jackets: The color scheme looks amateurish to me. I think they went overboard with the off-white everywhere and it doesn’t translate well to the design. The pattern would be cool, but the color choices and that horrible crest really set this uniform back.
  18. Buffalo Sabres: This abomination has earned plenty of enemies in Buffalo since it was unveiled. Blame the cape-effect you get from the two-toned pattern. Don’t forget the grey number (why?) and oddly placed silver accents. They were on the right track with yellow, everything else is a miss.
  19. New York Islanders: Amazingly I still slot the Isles jerseys behind Buffalo’s new alternates. There is no black in the Isles color scheme. The baseball-style team name looks bad and the number actually overpowers it on the front of the jersey. Add in the odd choice of grey and this thing is a train wreck. 

What They’re Wearing: Ryan Miller

What They’re Wearing: Ryan Miller

What They’re Wearing: Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres

There is going to be a big spotlight on Ryan Miller for most of the 2013-14 season. As he enters the final year of his contract with the Sabres many are wondering whether he will be convinced to re-sign, if he will be traded at the deadline or if he’ll simply play out the deal and sign with a new team in free agency.

While there will be plenty of talk about his play in Buffalo, one thing you may or may not have noticed is that he has completely switched his gear. After a number of years using Reebok equipment, Miller has gone to a Vaughn set up for the 2013-14 season.

Perhaps he is thinking of switching things up after a couple of playoff-less seasons in Buffalo. Maybe Vaughn was able to better construct the type of pad he wanted to wear moving forward. It’s anyone’s guess and here’s a look at what Miller is wearing this season.

Mask: Warwick custom – Dating back to his time at Michigan State (and probably earlier), Miller has worn a custom Warwick mask. It’s a small custom mask shop that primarily builds for pros and college players. But they have recently started doing work for Vaughn. Look for some of their design features in the new Vaughn mask line.

Blocker: CCM EFlex (blocker) and Vaughn T5500 (glove) – Ryan Miller broke his thumb during the 2005-06 season and subsequently switched to a Reebok (then RBK) blocker. The Lefevre design has a one-piece cuff that offers  comfortable, full-coverage protection that many other models don’t feature. Miller may actually be wearing the Vintage version of the EFlex, but the lack of graphics makes it hard to tell. I feel like it has become something of a comfort level with Miller as he’s worn a different model blocker (don’t be fooled by graphics) than his catch glove and pads since that 05-06 season. Miller’s new glove appears to be a T5500 model from Vaughn. Miller is known to be particular about his gear and it’s certainly possible that this is more of a custom build than what you’d find with a stock 5500. What’s for sure is the two-piece cuff and T-pocket appears to have all the qualities of the 5500.

Pads: Vaughn Velocity V5 – The most obvious change for Miller comes with his leg pads. Not only the manufacturer but that fact that his new Vaughn pads appear to be relatively stock. One thing many people didn’t know is that Miller’s Reebok Larceny’s were a fully custom pad that was built with the Larceny graphic. His previous pads were actually a custom build with traits from different Vaughn and CCM pads from previous years. These new pads have a flat face (as opposed to having shin rolls) and a more modern build than the traditional construction of his previous pads.

Stick: Reebok Pro – Miller has stuck with his sticks from previous seasons. The sturdy Reebok Pro wood stick. This is a solid stick that is popular throughout the league. I doubt he switches things up this year from a model that he’s been using for so long.

Ribcor hits the shelves

Ribcor hits the shelves

Ribcor hits the shelves

The wait is finally over. A few weeks after CCM introduced the RBZ Stage 2 stick, Reebok has introduced their newest twig for the upcoming season. The revolutionary Ribcor is now available in stores and offers a groundbreaking feature in stick development.

For the most part, the Ribcor is a pretty basic stick. The black on black finish gives it a sleek, stealthy look with fewer frills than other, more complicated sticks on the market. Nothing more than the neon green Ribcor logo stands out when looking at the stick from a distance.

Reebok offers a full host of flex and curve options with the Ribcor and when it comes down to blade technology, there isn’t too much different from that of the other sticks in the Reebok line. Where the difference is with the Ribcor is the kick point.

Reebok developed a ribbed (hence the name) design that keeps the carbon at full tension at all times. This differs from other stick technology in which the carbon is only at full tension when shooting or passing. Because of this change, the Ribcor is always loaded and ready to fire. This translates to less effort for the player when shooting.

The technology is all about power transfer. Much like other features in sticks like the Dynasty or RBZ that harness the power behind each player’s shot, the Ribcor’s technology almost enhances that power because of the way the stick is constructed.

What’s even better about the Ribcor line is that the technology doesn’t waver in the price point models. While many equipment lines only offer the top technology in the pro stick, gloves, skates etc.; the ribbed shaft is a hallmark of the entire line. That means you get the benefit of the new technology no matter what model you purchase.

For those players hoping for the lightest and highest performing model, the pro is the only way to go. During the demo day for the Ribcor I was surprised to feel the balance of the stick despite the new addition. My expectation was a drastically heavier stick than models like the 20K or A.I.Nine, but it wasn’t any heavier than the RBZ I was trying out. That, combined with the pop you get on your shots makes for a dangerous scoring weapon.

From the short time I had with the stick on the ice, I noticed a nice response and a stiffer shaft. Comparing the 100 flex Ribcor to a 100 flex RBZ, for example, there seemed to be more whip to the RBZ due to the construction. Even though the Ribcor felt stiffer, it didn’t react as if it was stiffer. In fact, the pop on a slap shot was equivalent, if not improved as compared to the RBZ when I used both on the ice.

You don’t have to wait any longer to snag the Ribcor and Great Skate has a full line of the new twigs for you to check out.

Exciting time for hockey in Buffalo as HARBORcenter rises

Exciting time for hockey in Buffalo as HARBORcenter rises

Exciting time for hockey in Buffalo as HARBORcenter rises

The cranes that dot the skyline in downtown Buffalo are feverishly assisting in assembling Terry Pegula’s newest piece of the growing Sabres campus at the foot of Washington Street. HARBORcenter is rising higher by the day as the hotel, twin-rink and parking garage complex works towards the slated 2014 opening date.

HARBORcenter –  is set to welcome a Marriott branch to the hotel portion of the project – will also include a large parking facility that will serve the adjacent First Niagara Center, hotel and the pair of rinks which will sit on top of the parking structure. One of the two rinks will seat 1,800 people and it was just announced that it will serve as the home for the Canisius Golden Griffins hockey program.

With the Golden Griffins joining the Junior Sabres minor program, it will make HARBORcenter a mecca for hockey in downtown Buffalo. Don’t forget that since the facility will be joined to First Niagara Center, it will create the NHL’s first three-rink facility.

Perhaps the ultimate benefit of having a premier hockey venue in the heart of downtown won’t be felt, but I’m sure that it won’t take long for the benefits to reveal themselves. Not only will one of the top youth programs in the area be operating out of the building, Buffalo’s lone DI NCAA program will not be playing feet away from the NHL rink. If there was a better way to bring the focus of Western New York’s hockey community to this building I’d like to know how.

There’s certainly no guarantee that Canisius’ program will blossom uncontrollably due to their move, but the recruiting trail might be a bit easier when professional scouts will be a hop and a skip from every home game in a brand new, state-of-the-art arena that is set to feature a training center specifically designed to develop hockey players.

I’m hopeful that the Griffs will be able to lure a few more premier names to their home for inter-conference matchups now that they’re no longer borrowing home ice at a different facility. Perhaps a certain blue and white clad team from Pennsylvania will want to check out the digs funded by the very man who provided funding for their new home.

Another benefit that will surely be on the table thanks to HARBORcenter will be the ability to lure national tournaments to Buffalo’s doorstep. This includes the Frozen Four. Buffalo first hosted the tournament in 2001 and have since (slowly) built out the waterfront while hitting the fast track with a premier hockey venue which will not just serve as a practice facility for the teams being hosted but also has a hotel to house each of the competing teams. Not to mention the additional development that is sure to impress the visiting guests from across the country.

Despite the fact that his professional team is beginning the difficult process of a rebuild, the construction happening outside of the First Niagara Center should bring attention to the arena for years to come.

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: 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.

Round Two Predictions

2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators

2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators

As round two begins I’d like to offer my prognosticating skills up to you all once again for the four series that will set the stage for the Conference Finals. After missing only two series in the first round (ignore that I lost both of my Cup predicted teams) I fully expect to go 0-for-4 with my second round predictions.

Eastern Conference

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators

The Penguins sudden issues in goal have made them quite vulnerable. Their six-game triumph over the Islanders only lasted that long thanks to the stumbling play of Marc-Andre Fleury. While Tomas Vokoun provided enough stability to close out the series, he can’t be instill all that much confidence in Penguins fans.

Ottawa rolls in off a five game drubbing of the Canadiens in which they received brilliant goaltending and timely scoring from all over their lineup. They face a scary, deep, talented Penguins team which creates matchup nightmares on both sides of the puck. I don’t expect the Alfredsson line to be nearly as effective as they were against Montreal, nor do I expect the Senators to be able to effectively shutdown Pittsburgh’s scorers. However, Craig Anderson provides a decided advantage in net. Penguins in 6

Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers

Fresh off a pair of grueling six-game series, both of these teams will be fighting some major fatigue in the second round. One interesting thing to watch will be the durability of each team’s top defensemen. Zdeno Chara was run well over 60 minutes over the past two games out of necessity while the Rangers trot Dan Girardi (and Ryan McDonagh) out for a million minutes by choice.

This series will be all about who is conditioned better and who is capable of surviving beyond another physically grueling series. Goaltending will play a major role here and I like Henrik Lundqvist better than Tuukka Rask. However, I think the Bruins have more firepower than the Rangers and that might just give them the edge. Bruins in 7

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings

The second Original Six showdown of the second round pits a pair of heated rivals against one another. This is a nice treat for hockey purists as the Wings will be heading east next season and severing many of their former divisional rivalries.

To be Frank, the Blackhawks are nearly impossible to matchup against and they’ve been getting steady goaltending along the way. While the Wings have been riding a nice wave of positive momentum, the Blackhawks are a much different beast than the Ducks were. While Jimmy Howard has been sensational, I’m not sure the Wings will be able to insulate him the way they did against Anaheim. Blackhawks in 6

Los Angeles Kings vs. San Jose Sharks

A nice little regional matchup that pits a perennial playoff disappointment against last year’s Cup champs. The Sharks have flown under the radar this year but have opened plenty of eyes after sweeping the Canucks. While they have plenty of question marks around them, San Jose has two solid scoring lines and have gotten great goaltending from Antti Niemi.

The Kings scrapped their way through the first round and will need to find some more offense if they hope to get back to the Conference Finals. Jonathan Quick has been stellar yet again and Los Angeles did a great job stifling the Blues. I wonder how they’ll deal with an impressive offensive lineup like the Sharks boast, however. Sharks in seven

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