In addition to the obvious, which, of course, is talent, hockey is a game of reaction, experience and repetition. To have an effective power play, you have to work on it . . . and work on it some more.
"We didn't get any practice in on our man-advantage situation until Saturday morning [hours before losing, 4-3, to the Hershey Bears]," Baltimore Bandits coach Walt Kyle said. Even so, the Bandits converted two of seven opportunities in the American Hockey League preseason game.
The Bears were 1-for-12 on their power plays and, Kyle said, "it was great. I wish they had had two dozen chances. A game is the only time you can work on your penalty killing; you can't really do it in practice."
Most coaches would be upset if their team had blown a 3-1 lead in the last five minutes of a game, as happened to the Bandits on Saturday night. Not Kyle. He gave reasons, not excuses.
"We played right through the end of the game," Kyle said. "Normally, you'd change your defensive scheme late, but we haven't had the opportunity to put stuff in yet. Then there was the factor of simple fatigue."
Jason Marshall, a wing, hadn't skated in nearly a week. It had been three days since other Bandits, assigned by the parent Anaheim Mighty Ducks, had been on ice. "Hershey's a very experienced team. It knew how to take advantage of the situation," said Kyle.
Baltimore held a 3-2 lead heading inside the last two minutes when Pavel Trnka was whistled off for holding. Usually, only flagrant infractions are called in the last two minutes of a game.
"Oh, it was a penalty, but it was OK," said Kyle. "Trnka did grab the guy and he wouldn't let go. He's a good one and he has an NHL career ahead of him if he keeps working, but he's 19 years old. You want a kid out there in situations like that, the last two minutes; it's the only way to learn.
"The difference between the way we played in Hershey [a 6-1 loss last week] and Saturday wasn't comparable. I knew we'd be much better. Still, we're not where we're going to be at the end of the week when we open up [against the Carolina Monarchs on Friday]. We'll be changing about 25 percent of our lineup this week, as we've got three more forwards coming in [from Anaheim] and at least one more defenseman."
Also, Dave Sacco, another strong center, is ready to go after being scratched from the roster Saturday because of his late arrival in town. The Bandits will go with 10 forwards and six defensemen most of the time, but the coach says that sixth defender will have to hustle to keep that 11th forward off the ice "since we have a couple of forwards who play defense."