The end of the lockout brought more uncertainty than we are used to seeing at this time of year in the NHL. What we would get going into games was anyones guess. Sure a little more chaos than expected, but out of the swirl of bodies, we can already begin to extract some very important data.
- There will be soft tissue tweaks: groin pulls, sprains and similar minor injuries galore.
- Expect aggression. Expect it all the time. Players are in general healthier, stronger, and fitter than they have been in years. Guys like Doan, Hossa, Keith, Chara and other minute munchers who play big minutes have had three extra months to heal. Doan, St Louis, and Chara not only don’t have the drawn look they’ve shown in recent years they’re missing the circles under the eyes and are moving with a bounce and verve that you haven’t seen from them in four or five years.
- Streaks will define seasons. With just forty eight games to be played, a six or seven game losing streak is all that it will take to fall behind permanently. A seven or eight game goal scoring streak will be enough to make a player’s season.
- Save percentages will be lower than in recent league history. With so few of the NHL’s goalies having played at all since last April, or in some cases even before then, the first eight or ten games are really their training camp. Those first few games of practice will be much magnified in their season statistics.
- Powerplay’s will be worse. Like tracking the puck, the systems teams use to make powerplays work will take time to get into sync. Obviously some teams have better shooters than others, but their teammates still have to recognize when shooters are open and get them the puck in time.
- Bigger than expected seasons from guys injured late in the year, and in the playoffs should be expected. These guys had to work hard to rehab during the lockout, and most of them probably didn’t wind down even when it looked like we wouldn’t have a season.
- You will see your team play 25-27 players minimum this season. Any minor injury that could be made worse will get a guy time off if the team thinks its a good idea. This extra evaluation for AHL guys could lead to a more active trade deadline.