Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Shortened NHL season puts premium on each game

Lightning players work out Monday during practice at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon after the NHL lockout ends.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning players work out Monday during practice at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon after the NHL lockout ends.

BRANDON — If anything good comes out of the NHL lockout, it might actually be the shortened 48- or 50-game schedule.

Purists will hate it because, to them, it won't be the physical and mental test of the normal 82-game slog.

But think about it: Fewer games means teams might not have time to regroup after extended losing streaks. Leaving points on the ice through shootouts will be maddening instead of just annoying. Consistency will be key as will a ferociously fast start.

As Lightning forward Adam Hall said, "I don't think you can hold anything back."

"The intensity of the games is going to be extremely high," coach Guy Boucher said. "You're going to see some physicality. You're going to see guys battling with everything they've got."

That is why Boucher said scrimmages will take the place of skating and passing drills at training camp to build endurance and get players quickly in the battling frame of mind.

It is why the team is contemplating moving training camp out of town to facilitate player bonding with a road-trip atmosphere.

It also is why defenseman Sami Salo, sitting at his locker, sweating profusely, said Monday's skate, the day after the league and Players' Association forged a tentative agreement on a new collective bargaining that ended the lockout, was a little more intense than those that had come before.

"Everybody wants to be here," wing Marty St. Louis said, raising his hand above his head. "The team that's going to get here quicker and maintain, those are the teams that are going to be on top, so I hope we get there quick."

For Boucher, that is especially important considering, as he said, "Everybody in our division improved or stayed the same."

Indeed, the Southeast Division might be one of the league's most interesting.

The Panthers, coming off a division title, added defenseman and former Lightning Filip Kuba. The Jets last season gave Tampa Bay all kinds of trouble. The Hurricanes are drastically improved after adding forwards Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal and defenseman Tomas Kaberle. The Capitals lost Semin but added center Mike Ribiero.

"Whether it's a 50-game season or a 48-game season, you can't afford to take a couple of weeks off," center Steven Stamkos said. "You have to kill losing streaks quick and try to maintain winning streaks because if you have a good couple of weeks that could be the difference between making the playoffs and being out of the playoffs."

Case in point, Stamkos said, the Stanley Cup champion Kings, who needed a late-season 9-2-3 run just to claim the Western Conference's final playoff spot.

"In a shortened season," Stamkos said, "they would have missed the playoffs."

Look, Boucher said, "there are going to be ups and downs like every season but you don't want a down that will last too long because you'll probably be out of the playoffs. The players are aware of it. We're aware of it. But I think it's going to be good for the fans because every game means so much."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.

Shortened NHL season puts premium on each game 01/07/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 7, 2013 11:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays morning after: There (really) are still reasons to be optimistic

    Blogs

    There are plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the Rays' chances to get out of their extended skid and make the playoffs, including veteran 3B Evan Longoria's acknowledgement after Thursday's game that the pressures of …

    Trevor Plouffe reacts as he pops out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning against Toronto.
  2. Is Bucs kicker Nick Folk a significant upgrade over Roberto Aguayo?

    Bucs

    Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter made it clear.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk is entering his 11th NFL season. He spent three seasons with the Cowboys and seven with the Jets. [LOREN ELLIOTT  |  Times]
  3. Tim Tebow Week: 12 stories from his Tampa Bay tour

    Minors

    Alas, Tim Tebow Week — eight baseball games in eight nights that reunited Tebow with his Tampa Bay friends and admirers — is over. The fun ended Thursday night.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow meets fans and signs autographs before the beginning of the Mets at Threshers game at Spectrum Field on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 in Clearwater. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times

  4. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.
  5. Bucs top Jaguars behind strong first half

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE

    There is a reason why the air in Tampa Bay is filled with playoff talk. If Thursday night's 12-8 Bucs preseason win over the Jaguars is any indication, it's also going to be filled with footballs thrown by quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Doug Martin gets the Bucs’ only touchdown  on a 2-yard run, squeaking past linebacker Telvin Smith in the first quarter. He has five carries for 30 yards.