BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Professional athletes are creatures of habit. Whether it’s their diet, sleep schedules or training, the planning and acting always has intent behind it.
Former NHL winger and now-trainer Gary Roberts was quoted in Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts last month discussing Connor McDavid’s training:
“What Connor has trained himself to do is this: he can do a 300-yard shuttle run, take a break and then repeat it consistently between 52 and 55 seconds.” — Gary Roberts to Elliotte Friedman
Players are programmed — mentally and physically — for game length, shift length and break length. So then, what happens when players have more time beyond the typical 18 minutes or so in between periods?
That was the case on Wednesday night at the Barclays Center, as the Vegas Golden Knights’ eventual 3-2 win over the New York Islanders was delayed by a lighting malfunction, which extended the break by another 16 minutes.
Did it make a difference? Winger Jonathan Marchessault thinks so.
“You’re definitely not as fresh to start the period, and it takes one or two shifts to get back in it,” Marchessault said. “But we were able to keep the pressure and I think we played well in the third period.”
The 27-year-old was on to something. Much of the third frame was spent swapping possession in the neutral zone and it was over three-and-a-half minutes before Oscar Lindberg put the first shot on net.
Tomas Nosek, who scored the game-winning goal off the rebound from that shot, did not necessarily feel the same way. Said Nosek, “It wasn’t that big of a deal, you can move on the ice before the lights go on.”
Regardless of whether or not the delay made an impact, goalie Marc-André Fleury helped keep the team light and loose during the break. The veteran netminder engaged with a few of the 9,182 fans in attendance, taking a selfie with a few Vegas fans and tossing snow onto some Islanders fans that had some unfriendly things to say.
“I got booed and yelled at. I don’t want people to think I think it’s a joke, but it didn’t really bother me,” Fleury said. “It was taking a while, getting a little boring. Just talked a bit with the guys and coach.”
What did they talk about? “All smart things,” Fleury said with his trademark impish grin.
Head coach Gerard Gallant agreed that Fleury helped keep the team loose, pointing out the importance of staying fresh. “As long as they skate around and keep their groins going, they’re fine,” said Gallant.
Gallant added that the delay was more likely to have hurt the home team, and that the game was not pretty, but “we don’t come out to put on a show.”
A show it was not. The Golden Knights posted their lowest shot total of the season (17) and allowed just 25, the resulting total of 42 shots representing a season-low as well. A tight checking game with just two penalties is a recipe for a low-energy affair, and the on-ice product very well matched the tepid crowd in Brooklyn.
The Knights will cross the East River, followed by the Hudson River, and take on the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.