Monday, September 20, 2010

The Best Game You Can Name

Photo by the fantastic Linda Hamilton

Fall is coming. The candy corn and Halloween decorations are coming out in the stores which is kind of like Florida's version of a chill to the night air or the leaves changing color. It's difficult to get too excited about a change in seasons when it's still in the 90s outside. The one thing about fall that is really exciting is the return of hockey. 90 degree weather be damned, I spent the weekend bundled up in a sweatshirt and scarf at a rink to get my first glimpses of the 2010-2011 Tampa Bay Lightning.

Training camp is one of the few things that will make me voluntarily get up at 7 am on the weekend. I was so excited to get to the rink, I actually woke up before my alarm went off. The Lightning have a lot of questions swirling around them going into the new season, especially since there are so many new factors. New owner, new GM, new coach, new system. It's been a summer filled with a string of news stories, so it was great to see some of the off season work come to life. I was interested in seeing a few things going into camp. 1) How would Dan Ellis look in goal? He has a solid history in his time with Nashville. Would his friendship with Mike Smith act as healthy competition that would motivate both of them? 2)What will Guy Boucher's "system" look like? and 3) Will I fangirl over Steve Yzerman again?

I got some of my answers, and I am still intrigued. First things first, the goalies. Their performance during Sunday's scrimmage stood out to me above the speed of the skaters and the hard hits along the boards. Wow. Ellis and Smith just seemed to be trading one great save after another. It was incredible to watch. The goaltending position has been an enigma for Tampa for years. Hopefully Ellis is the key to solidifying the tandem we have and motivating Smith. Smitty has had flashes of brilliance in the past, but injuries and his tendency to lose his confidence after a goal or two has been really detrimental. I am very interested to see how this plays out.

As for Boucher's system well.. it was... I'm trying to find the words to describe it. It's just difficult because the system he is teaching is almost completely unlike anything currently being used in the league. The only coach who currently even uses a similar system sometimes is Marc Crawford in Dallas. If he can pull it off, it could be something great that really sets the team apart from just about everyone else in the league. If if doesn't work? Well. It could have epic fail written all over it. I am very excited to see what happens because the system seems to heavily favor an aggressive forecheck combined with defensemen going up in a more offense minded capacity. Boucher's approach seems very cerebral. Very intense. I mean, the guy has a Masters in Sports Psychology. This could be a whole new approach when it comes to coaching and I am intrigued. And confused. All at the same time.

I wanted to end this update on a happy story, but the news broke that goalie Mike Smith suffered a slightly fractured finger during training camp today. He's only expected to miss a week, but we really don't need any more questions in net right now. So.. I'll leave it at that and end with another video.

Check out this nice build up to Simon Gagne's first goal in a Lightning sweater:

I think you can hear me cheering on the video, actually.

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