In this week’s blog we will focus on the NHL playoffs, in particular we hope to answer the question of why some regular season superstars seem to constantly disappear during the playoffs while other virtually unknown players seem to flourish.
This is a common occurrence during the playoffs in all the major sports but due to the nature of hockey it is especially seen in the NHL. This not only happens with individuals but also with entire teams, “the presidents trophy curse” for example shows regular season success does always transfer over to the postseason. There have been may explanations as to why this phenomenon happens, but it comes down to one simple explanation, Playoff hockey is a different beast than the Regular season game.
"Playoff hockey is a different beast than the Regular season game."
Isn't hockey just hockey? maybe to the uninitiated it might seem that way, but anybody who has played in a postseason at any competitive level knows that the game changes dramatically and this change has a deep effect on both individuals and teams. The regular NHL season is a long and arduous 82 games and though every game counts it is impossible to sustain the level of intensity and desperation you have in the playoffs. Therefore the regular season players have more time with the puck, hits are less punishing, and there are more mental mistakes and breakdowns. In short, the game is easier.
Some players, usually highly skilled guys are great at taking advantage of these slight lapses in intensity and tear it up and show statistical dominance. However when the playoff start, the game intensifies and some of these regular season stars get completely knocked out of their comfort zone, figuratively and literally; the hits are harder, the seams close quicker, and the gaps disappear. Some guys can’t transfer their game to a higher intensity and become ghosts during the playoffs. On the other hand, you have hard working players that when the intensity raises it plays right into their game and, therefore, are successful in the postseason. How about Tyler Johnsons of the Tampa Nay Lightning this postseason!
This phenomenon is also common for entire teams and its for similar reasons than for individual players. Some teams become very good at achieving regular season success, but when the chips are down and the game morphs into the brutal battle that is the playoffs, it all changes. As any even casual hockey fan knows playoff hockey is a war and if you lack grit, all the skill in the world won't win you jack, as has been recently demonstrated by teams such as the Sharks and Canucks, great regular season teams but can't cut it come playoff time.
Though this article has been about the NHL, we as players can learn lessons from the best. It is one of the simplest lessons of all as the old saying goes “hard work beats talent when talent doesnt work hard”. So remember work ethic is equally as important as talent.
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