Thursday, December 14, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

In short NHL season, coaching even bigger key

When Dave Andreychuk recalls the start of the 48-game season after the 1994-95 lockout, he speaks of sloppy play — "Nobody could make a pass" — and players who did not pay as much attention to conditioning as today's bent over their sticks in cardiovascular agony.

"We were dropping like flies," said the former Lightning captain, who at the time played for the Maple Leafs. "It was really tough for us."

What Andreychuk recalls most vividly, though, is coach Pat Burns managing players even more than he did before, from using rest as a weapon to reminding them that in a short season, losing streaks and bad habits cannot take hold.

Andreychuk, now the Lightning's vice president of fans and business development, even spoke about it to Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher.

"Not letting a snowball roll down the hill to where you lose four or five in a row," Andreychuk said. "That to me is the biggest thing. You really have to shake off a loss and forget about it by the time you get in your car."

"It relies on the coaching staff a lot. Really, a lot of it is on (the coach), to how he practices the team, how he gets them to rest, and then mentally how you handle wins and losses."

Boucher said he began that process during the six-day training camp. For example, he allowed Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone to skip Thursday's 20-minute scrimmage.

As for managing emotions during a 48-game season everyone expects will be a sprint to the playoffs, Boucher said, "For me, the big word is 'compensate.' You have to compensate from doing extremely well. We have to be calm and demand more from ourselves, and when we don't do well, be very positive and compensate for the negative and build on the small victories we have during losses and bad moments."

Consider the message he relayed to players before Saturday's opener against the Capitals:

"We're actually in a better position now than we were the last two seasons," with 48 games remaining, Boucher said. "That is positive. We decide the perception we're going to get, and right now, we like it."

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