This shortened NHL season might just go down as the year of mediocrity.
So many teams to this point of the season, as we are just about to the one-third mark of the 48-game schedule, have been on a elevator ride up and down. With a few exceptions at the top of the standings Ė Chicago, Anaheim, Boston, New Jersey Ė and at the bottom Ė Washington, Florida, Buffalo, Columbus Ė most teams have been up and down.
San Jose couldnít lose in January, then couldnít win in February. The New York Islanders were the surprise in the first two weeks of the season, then went on a two week slide. St. Louis clobbered teams in the early going, then were getting the same done to them.
Tampa Bay looked dominant to start the season while Carolina looked in disarray. Those two teams switched roles in the past two weeks and were tied for the Southeast Division lead heading into Saturdayís meeting in Raleigh.
Itís probably going to be that way all season, and Lightning head coach offers up the Allen Iverson theory Ė itís all about practice.
ďItís a very difficult season for everybody because you are up and down in games, up and down from game to game and you canít get your habits and you canít get your consistency because you canít practice,íí Boucher said. ďThatís the only way you are going to get it, you donít get it from game to game, itís practice, itís practice, practice because you donít get the repetition. Itís very difficult and thatís why you get times when you play great and go ĎWowí and then right after, you are ĎWhatís going on?í
ďThe execution is very difficult to get and we are no different than any other team. This is the first time Iíve lived (a shortened, compressed schedule) and itís tough.íí
Available practice is limited because most teams are playing at least three games per week, and during those days off when practice time is available, coaches must weigh the rest vs. rust option because games are being played so often itís equally difficult to fine proper rest time.
As far as the erratic play at times from many teams around the league, well, itís just like Iverson said, ďWeíre talking about practiceíí or the lack thereof.
Reading and hearing comments coming out of the Boston locker room following Thursdayís game, seems the Bruins were none too happy with the ice conditions. Certainly it was obvious the puck was bouncing quite a bit more than normal, which can be aggravating for players.
But donít both teams play on the same surface and have to deal with the same issues?
Honestly, Iíve never understood why teams complain about this and itís not like the Lightning is trying to slow the game down, not with some of the speed Tampa Bay possesses. Not to mention it was above 80 degrees and humid outside, way above normal for mid-February. Itís not ideal conditions for maintaining ice even with The Forumís improved HVAC system.
What sort of conditions did Boston expect? Playing so many games at Madison Square Garden through the years, should they be accustomed to less than ideal ice conditions?
Later in the season, when the warmer temperatures are expected and normal, itís likely the Lightning would bring in dehumidifiers to help with the issue just as they have in the past. But no matter if they do or not, both teams play on the same surface, good or bad.