Bruins preparing for 48-game season sprint

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Bruins preparing for 48-game season sprint

BOSTON -- Bruins President Cam Neely described the 48-game shortened season he played during the 1994-95 NHL regular season as a fast and furious campaign that was one of the most enjoyable of his career. It makes plenty of sense given the import of each game in a truncated schedule, and the elimination of the dog days that can sometimes drag down a run-of-the-mill 82-game regular season.

Now the current edition of the Bruins will get a chance to experience it when they hope to open a 48-game schedule on Jan. 19 after the NHL and NHLPA came to a tentative agreement on a Collective Bargaining Agreement last weekend.

Its going to be interesting. Even when you play an 82-game schedule and you have a bad start it becomes difficult to recover from, said Gregory Campbell. The stakes will be even higher in a shortened season. Every game will be critical.

But the good thing in a 48-game schedule is that there will be no layovers and no rest. It will be one game right after another. If you have a bad game you can jump back into it the next night. It will just be a challenge to stay healthy and stay fresh.

Interestingly enough theres been speculation that NHL teams will be allowed to carry an extra player or two given the war of unavoidable attrition when playing 48 games in four-plus months. That should be the case for the Bruins anyway when they break out of their week-long training camp as both defenseman Adam McQuaid and forward Jordan Caron may not be healthy enough to start the year for Boston.

So the Black and Gold's organizational depth will be tested right out of the gate. But to their credit it will be the same coaching staff, nearly the same exact group of players and the same familiar system that the Bs will be slipping into. 

I know I have a lot of confidence in my teammates and myself and we have a lot to look forward to going into this year, said Milan Lucic.

Every game will be important. The Bruins will have seven games apiece against rival clubs in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Buffalo, and theyll be essentially playing hockey games every other day once the season begins.

The clich is that it turns the NHL regular season into an Olympic sprint rather than a Boston Marathon, but it's 100 percent truth. The Bruins stumbled out to a 3-7 start in their first 10 games last season while battling through the Stanley Cup hangover, and the Black and Gold cant afford that kind of malaise this time around.

Having had 12 Bruins players skating over in Europe -- at one time or another -- should go a long way toward getting the Black and Gold off to a solid beginning this time around.

With less games it becomes a sprint right away, said Lucic. Every game means so much more that we cant afford to have a start like we did last year. We cant be in a position to play catch-up like we did last year, and just maintain our level of play for the entire year.

Lucic did admit that there will be some sloppy hockey in the first few weeks back as two sets of players those that kept active in Europe and those that gathered rust while they sat idle in North America attempt to reach the same level. But a 48-game season followed by a full Stanley Cup playoff should be a rousing, rollicking success, and could actually be a little dangerous.

After all, if it turns out well, hockey lovers everywhere are going to start wondering why the NHL doesnt play a 50-game season every year.

Steelers descending into disarray?

Steelers descending into disarray?

Less than 48 hours removed from openly wondering if the AFC Championship Game stage was “too big” for some of his young teammates, Ben Roethlisberger has decided to play the latter-day Hamlet/Brett Favre game.

Speaking on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday, Roethlisberger hinted at retirement.

“I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options,” Roethlisberger said. “To consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season. All those things. I think at this point in my career, at my age, that’s the prudent and smart thing to do every year.”

The soon-to-be-35-year-old Roethlisberger is a likely Hall of Famer who’s still arguably one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. But for whatever reason, he’s got an insatiable need for people to register concern about his status. Whether it be limping around the field, lamenting injuries or this, few quarterbacks in the league go through the same histrionics Roethlisberger does in order to get those, “Attaboy, Ben!” backslaps.

I remember being at Steelers training camp in 2009 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and having veteran Steelers writers roll their eyes as Roethlisberger started hopping around like he was on hot coals after a throw. The quarterback having an owie act was a daily tradition.

Roethlisberger’s also got a passive aggressive side in which he’ll deftly twist the knife on coaches and teammates but leave himself enough room for plausible deniability.

In addition to openly wondering if his young teammates took the AFC Championship Game seriously enough, Roethlisberger gave the “just running the plays as I’m told” answer when asked about the Steelers resistance to running a quarterback sneak when they were at the Patriots goal line before halftime. Roethlisberger could have taken offensive coordinator Todd Haley off the hook there – he’s lobbied for Haley to get a head coaching shot after the two had a bad relationship when Haley arrived. But he opted not to.

Similarly, earlier this year, Roethlisberger’s critiques of the way head coach Mike Tomlin was running the team were aired. 

So, this could be part of a Roethlisberger power play aimed at the Steelers bowing to his wishes.

That wasn’t the only tidbit from Pittsburgh that looked bad for the AFC finalists. Linebacker Bud Dupree said the Steelers were surprised by the Patriots using an up-tempo offense earlier in the game. 

Do they not have electricity or internet access in the Steelers facility? Up-tempo is a staple part of the Patriots offensive diet. You can see it on the television or the internet through your smart phone.

While there’s no doubt that defensive coordinator Keith Butler – and defensive minded head coach Tomlin – were aware and talked about the Patriots going no-huddle, the fact Dupree (and his teammates) were unable to recall the preparation or adequately fall into an emergency plan to address it does fall on the coaches.

Need more? It’s also being leaked out of the building that Antonio Brown cares too much about his statistics. He made clear last week how much he cares about advancing his personal brand at the expense of Tomlin and the team with his Facebook Live video. 

If there’s an upside for anyone in all this, it would have to be Joey Porter. Nobody’s even talking about his off-field fracas anymore.

As this season ably demonstrated, the Patriots have plum run out of authentic rivals in the AFC. That the team they just pulverized is steamrolling into an offseason of dysfunction and uncertainty isn't good if you like parity. But it's terrific if you couldn't care less.