Wow! How about these Stanley Cup playoffs, so exciting! We can’t help but take a look at the two first teams to advance to the 3rd round, both are built and play a scaringly similar way. It’s actually kinda crazy!
So, it begins… First thing we talked about at the office on Monday morning was...
“Did you see Marchy (Jonathan Marchessault) take that opening faceoff last night?” asks one of our staff. "He pushed the puck ahead to Killer (William Karlsson) on the left flank.” “Off the opening faceoff?” another staff member hurled! “Yeah, Yeah and he even disguised it by having his bottom hand over top of the shaft to make it look like he was going to win in back to the D!” “No way” another one jolted. “That’s sick”.
The neat thing about this metaphor is that no one wins a draw forward. I mean, even in minor hockey, coaches harp on winning a draw forward, it almost always has to go back. Not for Marchy and Killer. Sure, it was a set play but for us, it’s their mindset. Pure go. Pure move forward. Pure attack. Pure bring it. Their mindset was set right from the moment the puck dropped, Vegas just likes to GO!
Now let’s take a look at Tampa. You mean that soft team from down in the sunshine state that’s lead by a hobbled injury prone star Steven Stamkos? Yeah that’s them. Stammer is a friend so we can chirp him like that but really before these playoffs that was the knock on this club. Image changed, full 360. After not making the playoff last year, to dismantling a good, young gunning, New Jersey Devils team in 5 in the first round, this year’s version of the Tampa Bay lightning outskated and actually pushed around the rough and tumbling Bruins, who many had beating them in 7. Our founder too was a big fan of the Bruins, he liked their toughness, thought that maybe they could make it a heavy series and wipe out the smaller, nibbler lighting rods. Not a chance. Not anymore. Never in this NHL. It was an epiphany before our eyes.
You see where we are kind of still trying to hold on. Hold on to what you might be asking? To be very honest, we’re actually flabbergasted and quite ashamed that we could have ever thought otherwise. We kept holding on to the old adage that maybe just maybe a less skating and attacking team could make a series heavy. We’ve certainly come to our conclusion (Thank you Tampa and Vegas ☺). That game is so over. And we are so excited that teams like the Tampa Bay lightning and the Vegas Golden Knights are showing us a new way of winning in this new NHL. A blend of speed, attack and grit.
Did anyone see William Karlsson’s OT winner in game 4?
That Linear Front Stride to Linear Crossover to Shoot in Stride pattern was a thing of beauty. That’s speed. How about last night’s opening goal, it was a two foot stop to FH dish by Carpenter to Marchy with a Skinner reception with no dust and five-hole goal. That’s speed too. Just different. You see team speed is the key but it can be defined in two different ways, and it’s exactly why the Boston Bruins and the San Jose Sharks are now waking up reminiscing about what went wrong. The first is skating speed. Some teams are blessed with a ton of it. Tampa and Vegas definitely have it. The other is how fast your team plays by moving, supporting and attacking. This isn’t something new. I mean, even the earliest concepts of a minor hockey practice coaches preach to move the puck. Teams that are having success in this new NHL have both. They are physically fast, but they also move the puck, support the puck in an all-out attacking style. It’s made the game fast and so exciting!
How about the attack part? No one does it better then Tampa. They actually remind us of how Nashville was playing in last year’s playoff. There is no NZ play, no contain FC, no left-wing lock, it’s pure pressure, all over the ice, with and without the puck. Boy, must be fun to play like that, roaming, hunting to jump in that hole, get to that loose puck or pressure the opposition. There is no thinking. It’s all instinct and players trust the safety valves in their system that are put in place when guys make mistakes. Attack, people. (On the ice only ☺) Vegas and Tampa are showing us that’s the way.
Did anyone see JT Miller’s crunch of David Backes in Game 5? Open hip start to POP! Wow! We feel bad for Back’s, never want to see someone get hurt but it was JT’s quickness that made it happen. That’s Grit. How about that Paquette guy you never hear about in the regular season? He ran big Z out of the rink by flying down the ice, leaping and making contact. (It was a penalty, yes, yes, we hear ya) but what a demo of speed and contact, Paquette is 6”1 and 199 lbs, big Z is 6”9, and 250 lbs. That’s Grit. I can’t help but think of the Carrier-Reaves bowling ball duo for Vegas, both guys buzzing all over making contact. That’s Grit. How about little guys like Brayden Point, Tyler Johnson and Ryan Callaghan or guys like Bellemare, Smith and Tatar for Vegas, they are all buzzing making contact too. It’s all Grit.
The neat thing about attack and grit is they are both independent and interdependent of speed based on certain situations in the game. That’s why speed comes first. The market for skating speed is bigger than it’s ever been and teams like Vegas and Tampa are showing us why. Athletes, start there. Work on your speed, especially on the ice as off-ice patterns and angles of push can’t be replicated. Athletes and coaches, build an attack mindset. Focus on moving forward in your game, focus on moving and supporting the puck and playing fast not just with your feet. Combine playing fast with physical speed and you will become a hockey weapon. And lastly, be Gritty. Everywhere on the ice. Win every battle, every fight to a loose puck, body position on every play and a strong stick on both sides of the game.
So, looking for success in your spring hockey, tryouts or plain just looking for information on what to work on during the summer? Put the concept of SPEED, ATTACK and GRIT into your vocabulary lineup. Then get around a great coach with a great program and go work it! It’s in the process of trading salt with purpose that we all grow!