By Allan Muir
Chart-topping statistics and an injury to starter Miikka Kiprusoff put Danny Taylor on the path back to the NHL. (MUIR: Flames face life without Kipper.) But he'll be forced to change his skates before he can step on the ice with Calgary.
The 26-year-old Taylor, whose NHL experience consists of 20 minutes of relief for the Los Angeles Kings on March 29, 2008, has put together a tremendous season with Abbotsford of the AHL while wearing the new Step Steel Xtreme blades.
The blades, which are a quarter-inch taller than the industry standard, "create a better attack angle for lateral pushes by increasing the distance between the ice and the skate cowling" according to InGoal Magazine.
"That increased height allows goalies to play lower and wider on their inside edge before the cowling makes contact with the ice -- InGoal measured a nine degree angle change in testing -- which can cause slip out. It also means a goaltender needs to lift their knee that much less before they clear the cowling and establish that skate edge needed to make a lateral push while down."
That ability to play "lower and wider" works in concert with Taylor's preferred style of play. And while technique and focus are the biggest factors that influence his success -- his 1.77 GAA is tops in the AHL and his .930 save percentage ranks fourth -- the blades also impact his comfort level.
While there's no NHL rule specifically banning the blades, they can't be worn because the manufacturer failed to submit them for league approval. Interestingly, InGoal reports that some NHL goalies have asked that the blades be banned because of the added height, but NHL goalie equipment czar Kay Whitmore said he was "in the process of gathering necessary information to make a decision on whether they will or won’t be."
In the meantime, Taylor will be happy to wear standard blades while he waits for his chance to step between the pipes for the Flames. (Stick tap to Kevin Woodley of InGoal.)