It wasn’t going to be pretty. We knew this. With one week of training camp, with players of varying degrees of fitness and sharpness all attempting to mesh onto the same rosters, the first few battles of the 2013 NHL regular season were going to be exhibition games at best, and beer league teams mimicking the pros at worst.
The pace in these games was inconsistent. They had more turnovers than a Pennsylvania Dutch bakery. Goalies that are usually very, very good looked very, very ordinary. Passing plays that would have resulted in a highlight reel goal were sabotaged by teammates that just weren’t in sync.
But you know what? That’s OK. Because post-lockout hockey was ridiculously entertaining, draining the weekend of lingering anger and nourishing the starving puckheads that had waited months for it.
A few reasons why sloppy is sometimes better …
No systems overload. My radio partner Jeff Marek made the point this weekend that the shortened training camp made it difficult for teams to get on the same page within their controlled, over-coached systems. Look no further that the Phoenix Coyotes, who begin the season at 0-2, having given up 10 goals. Their game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday lacked the clamped down defense of a Dave Tippett team, but was a chaotic thrill of a game.
Regulation Hockey Rules. Of the 19 games played in the last two days, only two went to overtime: the Edmonton Oilers’ shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ shootout win over the Nashville Predators. The regulation wins are a direct result of the sloppy, defensively-deficient play; but maybe teams are putting a premium on keeping charity points away from opponents in a 48-game season, too. At least that’s our dream.
Power Plays Are Lethal. If you like an effective power play – and who doesn’t, both as a showcase for talent and as a deterrent for rule breaking? – the opening weekend was for you. Teams scored 45 power-play goals on 167 chances, for a conversion rate of 26.95 percent. That’s better than any team in the 2011-12 season and would have ranked fourth-best in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We know more than a few fantasy hockey owners that are rather pleased that the power plays are cranking early.
Oh, Look, Goal Scoring. Of the 19 games played, 14 of them had at least five goals scored (including the shootout results). This pace obviously isn’t going to hold. And, quite frankly, the tight-checking tension and physicality of playoff hockey is still our favorite version of NHL hockey. But in this post-lockout slop-fest, we’ve been entertained.
And for the NHL, it’s difficult to get a hearty “Bettman Sucks!” chant going inside the arena when the goal siren’s always going off. Maybe shorten training camp every season?