NHL coaches will have more technology on the bench than ever before as the Stanley Cup playoffs begin.
Three iPad Pros will be available for coaches on every bench and officials will also have them to review coach's challenges, The Associated Press has learned. All 16 playoff arenas have been outfitted with the iPads and also Macs for video coaches as part of a collaboration with Apple.
This season, coaches have been able to use video monitors on the bench to help them decide when to challenge offside and goaltender interference situations. With the iPads, which were tested late in the regular season, they'll have real-time video capabilities to show players their own shifts minutes after they happen as they discuss adjustments.
The monitors had already become a game-changer for coaches, giving them more information on challenges and for player feedback. The technology will be even more valuable in the playoffs when goals are scarcer and the offside and goaltender interference challenges can decide a game - or a series.
The St. Louis Blues lost Game 2 to the Chicago Blackhawks last year when a coach's challenge wiped out a go-ahead goal by Vladimir Tarasenko, and even though they won the series they felt the attrition of needing seven games to advance.
"It's going to be huge in the playoffs," Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "The referees, the league wants to get it right, the coaches want to get it right."
During the season, 86 of 313 coach's challenges were successful in overturning calls. With the aid of the monitors, headsets and video coaches watching live, each team developed its own step-by-step process in deciding when to challenge a goal for goalie interference or offside and tried to perfect it.
Speed will be key as the league cracks down on coaches who dawdle before deciding to challenge.
"When you have challenges, to have the ability to quickly look at what you're doing and now they're trying to expedite it even that much more," Arizona Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "When you're in those critical moments, you've got to make that decision in a hurry. You better have somebody good back there that knows what you want to see and the ability to make the decision quick."
Having iPads in the hands of assistant coaches will provide a crucial benefit for player adjustments. Late in the season, Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan looked at film of Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray on the bench before a shootout, and coach Guy Boucher has also used the advanced technology beyond challenges.
"We look at it because sometimes we're not seeing everything that's going on on the ice," Boucher said. "It's good also for feedback with our players and, yeah, it's good for challenges and all that. I think it's been important since the beginning of the year. It helps is also between periods because instead of looking at 12 different things between periods, we might have to look at five or six, so it's quicker for us to get back to our players and tell them about adjustments because sometimes we already know a few adjustments and a lot of times we'll address it right on the bench."
But the biggest impact all season has been on coaches because they can point out the exact time of a potential offside or explain to an official what they see as goaltender interference.
Trotz recalled a goaltender interference challenge earlier this season where he was able to point out how an opponent was pushing down on Braden Holtby's blocker and keeping him from being able to rotate and make the save.
"We explained it and we won it," he said.