The work stoppage is over. Hallelujah! Let the games begin.
And when they do, fans should buckle themselves in for a wild, exciting ride. A shortened regular season means that teams will be going full speed from the first faceoff of the first game.
That’s not to imply that teams treat a complete 82-game regular season like a marathon. But there is some wriggle room to overcome a potential five or six-game slump. In fact, most teams endure at least one such dip over the course of a six-month regular season.
In this shortened campaign, such slumps could be devastating. Regular readers of my columns know how I’ve examined the difficultly of erasing deficits in the standings when a season is only a couple of months old. With so much less time in the hourglass, making up lost ground will be even tougher this year.
What this means for fans is that they will be treated to high-intensity hockey from the get-go. And it will be a sprint to the playoffs!
It’ll be an interesting year for Lightning fans, specifically. Now that hockey is back at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, fans will get to see the team’s spectacular new center-hung high-definition vision board – Lightning Vision. They’ll get a first-hand look at the newest members of the team: goaltender Anders Lindback, defensemen Matt Carle and Sami Salo and forwards Benoit Pouliot and B.J. Crombeen. Perhaps some of the players who have excelled in the American Hockey League will make the jump – players like 2012 AHL MVP and Rookie of the Year Cory Conacher, 2012 AHL Top Defenseman Mark Barberio and 2012 AHL All-Rookie Team selection Tyler Johnson. There’s also J.T. Brown, who played five games at the end of last season with the Bolts (although he’s currently recovering from a broken collarbone), 2010 first-rounder Brett Connolly, defenseman Radko Gudas, rookie forward Alex Killorn, former second-round forward Richard Panik and other depth players currently in the minors who may contend for a roster spot.
It’s going to be a fun few months. Enjoy the ride, Lightning fans!
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