I actually like preseason hockey. Teams get out of their comfort zone some, there’s less game planning and line matching so the game is a bit more open, and it’s a more honest assessment on who the best players are. Sure, it’s not “pure hockey” without the masterful tactics of Barry Trotz (forecheck, forecheck, and protect the goalie… while forechecking), but the possibility of seeing Captain Hammer share the ice with Ryan Ellis instead of Ryan Suter is at least intriguing.
(Note: The argument suggested in the title also holds true during most regular season NFL games as well)
The only real bummer? Most of these exhibitions won’t be televised, webcasted, or anything of the sort. No video = nothing to analyze like we actually know something.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
- Line Chemistry: Looking at the score sheet (again, no video) from the second game against the Panthers show that Blake Geoffrion did well with a postseason linemate of his, Matt Halischuk. Considering those guys are on the bubble to stay up with the big club, finding a dancing partner in the competitive and very wide-open bottom 6 forwards in Nashville is key to keeping your locker at 501 Broadway.
- Defensive Pairings: We know who the top pair will be. We’re also pretty certain on who the second pair will be. It’s the bottom pair that we’re curious about. And on a day when Teemu Laakso is tied for the most goals from a defenseman after yesterday’s games (not that we can show you this video), the top pairing will see loads of competition from guys like Jack Hillen, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, and the aforementioned Teemu Laakso. Still, watching Roman Josi skate with Ryan Ellis and comparing the two is always fun.
- Goalie Depth: Goalies take their sweet time developing. So when you see the well-padded starlets on the ice for the big club, your curiosity perks up. Anders Lindback took the #2 job out of camp, and never turned it loose. However, he did look a bit rusty and undisciplined at times towards the end of the year. While the Giant still has LOADS of upside and could eventually be Mitch Korn’s masterpiece (or Magnus Hellberg, but he’s in the SEL for another year), it will be interesting to see where he is compared to Jeremy Smith, who is expected to backstop the Admirals this year, Chet Pickard and Atte Engren.
- Fitness: Two years ago, Cal O’Reilly didn’t bring his A-game to Centennial and his camp went pretty rough. At some point he must’ve had a “Come to Jesus Moment”, because he was a good soldier at camp, and played great hockey out of the gate. So far, no one has been noticeably out of shape or a total disappointment, but it’s still early. Looking at the first game where more of the high scoring forwards were featured, Sergei Kostitsyn was making some slick passes… and still not shooting. But hey, pucks are in the net. This we’ll find out by the second week of camp.
- Who’s ready for the BIG TIME: Are Blake Geoffrion, Matt Halischuk, Craig Smith, Gabriel Bourque, Taylor Beck, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, and Roman Josi ready to wear the fangs? There’s a lot of questions surrounding this group of youngsters. (Milwaukee will be darn good, that’s for sure)