The importance of a fast start, the Walleye eat walleye and Dynamo secures a playoff spot

Martin Brodeur experienced his first championship during the whirlwind sprint of the 1995 season. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

Martin Brodeur experienced his first championship during the whirlwind sprint of the 1995 season. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

Dan Rosen of NHL.com explains why a fast start is critical in the 48-game 2013 NHL season. Rosen explains how the biggest problem is the extremely short training camp. Not only is there very little time for coaches to figure out lines and players to find chemistry with one another, there is the matter of working players, especially those who haven’t skated during the lockout, hard enough to be in mid-season form without subjecting them to injury, notably pulled groins.

However, that likely won’t be as much of a problem as it was the last time the NHL played a shortened schedule back in 1995. Rosen talked to Devils goalie Martin Brodeur and former defenseman Ken Daneyko about their experience in 1995 when they led New Jersey to its first championship.

“Back then we had almost nobody that went to Europe and nobody played in the minors,” Brodeur said. “These are things they weren’t doing. You can see a lot of fresh legs out there now and guys are anxious.”

“Not that we didn’t train, but it’s so much big business now that you stay in shape year-round,” added Daneyko. “That wasn’t the case in 1995. Now every guy is built like a racehorse. Preparation will be a lot better. These guys are machines now.”

Another problem coaches will face is having to decide what aspects of the game they believe are the most important to work on. In a full season, teams usually have a month-long training camp and 6-8 preseason games to get their players to buy into all facets of their system, but there is just not enough time this year.Jim Schoenfeld, who coached the Washington Capitals to a 22-18-8 record in 1995 understands the mentality of having to pick a few key parts of their game plan to work on.

Schoenfeld recalls discovering in 1995 that it was almost impossible to work on every aspect of the game both in training camp and during early-season practices, so he said coaches have to pick two or three items and go in depth on those.

He added that a lot of that work will also be done in the film room because practice time is so limited.

“One coach may think defensive zone coverage and breakouts and forechecking are the main three things. Some may think special teams,” Schoenfeld said. “Every coach is going to have his list of priorities. The heart of your practice will be those things.

Of course having everyone on the same page and getting off to a fast start won’t be enough, teams will have to battle hard for the entire schedule to have a chance at a playoff spot. Keep in mind a fast start even to this season will not guarantee a playoff birth. Last season the Minnesota Wild were in first pace in the Western Conference as late as December 17 after 33 games. By their 48th game on January 21, they had fallen to ninth in the conference and out of a playoff spot.

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The East Coast League’s Toledo Walleye participated in a rather unique off-ice training session, with players and coaches having to eat a plate of walleye from Lake Erie. More from Rachel Lenzi via The Toledo Blade:

While walleye have become a bit of a regional dining delicacy, it’s not common table fare for local pro hockey players.

Only 50 percent of the players have ever tried walleye, team General Manager Joe Napoli said.

The spread was part of an off-ice training session for Walleye players and coaches, designed to emphasize the holistic aspect of the ECHL organization — where and how players relate to the organization as a whole and the fact they are part of a product the organization is marketing.

The Walleye, in their fourth year of existence, are currently ninth in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference with a 19-16-0-4 record. They have 42 points, same os the eighth place Wheeling Nailers, but are slotted below them as they have played two more games.

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The Kontinental League’s Dynamo Moscow, in their first game without any locked-out NHLers on the roster (they had Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals), cemented a playoff birth with a 3-1 victory over Spartak Moscow. Dynamo, the KHL’s defending champions, are currently third in the Western Conference and second in the Bobrov Division with a record of 24-2-5-1-1-10 (regulation wins, OT wins, shootout wins, shootout losses, OT losses, regulation losses) and 88 points (using a 3-2-1 points system).

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Signings and trades: The Anaheim Ducks made a trio of signings yesterday, signing defenseman Ryan Parent (from Vancouver), left wing Jay Rosehill (from Toronto) and re-upping right wing Troy Brodie, all to one-year contracts. The Winnipeg Jets also re-signed left wing Jason Jaffray.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have sent center Matthew Lombardi to the Phoenix Coyotes for a conditional 4th round draft pick in 2014 that will turn into a 3rd round pick if Lombardi re-signs in Phoenix after this season. Lombardi played 97 games for Phoenix between 2008-09 and ’09-10, posting career bests of 34 assists and 53 points in the ’09-10 season.

The San Jose Sharks have acquired right wing Tommy Grant and a conditional 7th round draft pick in 2014 from the New York Rangers in exchange for left wing Brandon Mashinter.

 

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