Lightning fast for now: Preseason jitters are here

DSC05766When watching training camp scrimmages and pre-season hockey, the pace that some teams will play at are ridiculously fast.

Despite my hopes, the pace isn’t sustainable and at some point the mad rushes look more like hockey. Expect this as the Lightning makes its way through the first preseason game Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators.

If anyone tried to pick out positioning, puck retrieval instructions and breakouts during Sunday’s scrimmage, they would have failed. Players are like a dog who’s been kept in a cage all day, readying to dart out at a full sprint and not letting up until the last drop of adrenaline is spent.

From what the coach reported Monday, it sounds like some of that died down to a more realistic pace and precision.

The play was so quick it was hard to follow passes, missed passes, chips, reverses and deflected shots. I’d imagine Sunday’s pace will be the bar set for Tuesday’s preseason scrimmage as at this point, the Bolts are ready to hit somebody not on their own team. That hitting ought to slow the play down, but you’ll be in and out of tomorrow’s game by 9:30 p.m. if the pace holds up.

Unfortunately, it’s just not sustainable to play at that pace over 82 games. The playoffs bring back some of that five-man unit speed from the preseason, but instead of seeing that in 60, you’ll see it in spurts.

One area of the game I’d always like to see kept up at a high tempo is the power play. Regardless of the level, I’m surprised that a lot of teams take their time on passes on the power play. These same teams don’t move from their spots all that much, either. When it gets to be a 5-on-3, it’s even worse.

In 2007, I attended three Caps pre-season games and just awed at the speed that Viktor Kozlov, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin whipped the puck around on the power plays that pre-season, especially against Ottawa. By the time the regular season came, the man advantage moved at a snail’s pace. That PP didn’t click for the first month-plus and Glen Hanlon was let go and Bruce Boudreau came in and ticked the pace up and movement and it clicked.

Anyway, the boys are out to impress, show off their wheels and stand out at camp. This is an audition after all. If you’re a prospect, you’re trying to squeeze your way onto the roster and if you’re a veteran, you’re playing for more ice time.

Be excited that hockey is back, but know this of the first preseason game: it will be like a drunk one-night stand. It will be sloppy, it will be quick and it will be enjoyable. But it’s still hockey.

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