We’ve been playing without Mike Smith
, Martin Hanzal
and Boyd Gordon
for a few games now and it’s tough. It’s challenging playing without such key players, but it’s also a great opportunity for other guys to play more minutes and step up. I like what I’ve seen from some of our role players who’ve been asked to do more.
Our travel schedule the last few weeks has been excessive. In 18 years as a pro I’ve never had a schedule this bad. And I know all professional teams go through it at times, and you have to deal with it and you can’t use it as an excuse, but this has been one of the tougher stretches I can remember. I can’t imagine any of these young guys on our team have seen travel worse than this. We’re having a real tough time getting rest days because of the amount of games we’re playing, and a lot of times we can’t even get real solid practices in because we try to rest as much as we can. So, we have to do in-game adjustments and sometimes it shows a little bit.
The key to dealing with a grueling schedule is to recognize that you have to play 82 games over six months and there’s no easy way out. But it’s especially tough in December and January because there’s so much happening off the ice with families and holidays and other things. I think it’s good that we have a veteran group here because I think we know how to park that stuff and just play hockey. That being said, it’s still a burden when you’re home for a night and then you’re away and then you’re back home and then you’re away again - changing time zones just for a couple of games.
|Photo by Getty Images. |
Someone asked me recently why our road record is better than our home record this season. I’m not sure but I have a theory: When we’ve been on the road, we’ve been on the road for long stretches at a time with days off in between the games. On the other hand, our home games this month have been few and far between and there hasn’t been a lot of down time at home so the guys have had to cram personal affairs and hockey into a short block of time. Plus, when you’re on the road I think you can just focus on hockey, which makes it easier. I really believe we’ll start playing better at home when we have a stretch of home games and the guys get a chance to settle in for longer than just a night or two.
I’ll finish this blog with a thought or two on Oliver Ekman-Larsson
. He’s really evolving into a solid NHL defenseman and I think a lot of it has to do with confidence and ice time. Confidence is a funny, funny thing in pro sports because sometimes you can’t figure out where it is or how to get it. It’s amazing how it’s something that you either have or you don’t, and it can affect your entire game. I think for him it’s just a matter that we got off to a pretty good start to the season together and he started to realize how big of an impact he can have. A lot of times when you’re young or when you’re not sure, you just try to get by and try to play so that you don’t make too many mistakes and the coaches don’t get mad at you. Now I think he realizes that when he just plays he can be one of the top defensemen in the League. His confidence is high and his potential is ridiculous.
Thanks for reading.