Playoff Hockey is Different

playoff hockey

We learn, (at least we should) season after season, that playoff hockey is different than regular-season hockey.  It’s not a skills competition; it takes a well-balanced, disciplined, physically and mentally fit team to make it very far. The Toronto Maple Leafs losing out in round two last night was a prime example of that.

A Hot (Good) and Consistent Goalie

Every team that wins the Stanley Cup or gets it in their sights (makes it to the finals or semi-finals) has a hot goalie. Goalie issues, whether injury or (under) performance related, plague many teams, Toronto included. The Ottawa Senators, my favourite team, suffered from goalie issues this past season too. Both injury and performance related and it was frustrating to watch. In retrospect, we can only wonder what could have been if these issues had not been there.

While Toronto’s Samsonov played inconsistently, Woll, their rookie goalie that played the last two games, was consistent and better but not good enough. Bobrovsky, the Panther’s goalie, on the other hand, was consistently great. I’m sure no one would disagree that he (nicknamed Bob the goalie) was the MVP of that series.

Strong Defense

A consistently strong defense is another must for Stanley Cup contenders. Not just one or two players, but six, so that every line keeps their opponent from shooting and scoring. One great defender that is expected to play 25 minutes or more a game does not constitute a strong, effective defense. Of course, not many teams have six excellent defenders but those that have the most are the teams that make it far.

Good defensive players are sturdy (don’t suffer injuries easily), hard (but not dirty) hitting, great puck movers (getting the puck out of their zone), and determined to fulfill their role on the team. It is a bonus if they can rush to the opponent’s net with the puck too, as long as they can get back to defend when the puck moves the other way.

Discipline, Endurance, and Depth

Any team that makes it deep into playoff hockey has to be extremely disciplined for sixty-minute (all three periods) games. Coming from behind is exciting but is hard to execute on a regular basis so not a reliable way to win.

Staying out of the penalty box is important too as providing opponents with a man advantage is a quick way to give up a goal and momentum in the game. Every goal is so important in playoff hockey.

Depth of talent is extremely important too. One line of high-end (paid) players won’t cut it for long. It comes back to that old saying “There’s no I in team.” It takes a whole team of teammates that each offer one hundred percent, for the entire game.

Controlling the Corners

Do you ever notice that some players are awesome at controlling the corners in hockey games? By that I mean they go right into the corners of the rink and fight for the puck with their bodies. Others tend to stand back and wave their sticks (poke) at the puck. The latter lack the grit to get the job done.

Conclusions in Playoff Hockey

The individual, high-paid players that show off their skills during the regular season by racking up the points often don’t perform as well in playoff hockey. Why is that? Because playoff hockey is not a skills competition!

photo credit

Concussion Protocol for Athletes

concussion protocol

I was reminded recently of a new law created a few years ago proposing a concussion protocol or code of conduct to protect athletes. Rowan’s law was established here in Ontario, Canada after she (Rowan Stringer) died in 2013 due to injuries sustained from several concussions while playing rugby. She was just 17 at the time.

Rowan’s Law for Concussion Protocol

Rowan’s Law requires:

that all coaches and team trainers review the government-approved Concussion Awareness Resources every year before serving in a sport organization or at a school. The legislation applies to sport organizations (as defined under the Act), which could include: public and private sport clubs. post-secondary institutions. municipalities throughout Ontario. Rowan’s Law is applicable to 65 sports in Ontario as well as educational institutions. In summary; From July 1 2019, all sports must have in place Concussion Code of Conducts for players/parents and coaches/trainers.

Coaches Association of Ontario

Second Impact Syndrome, AKA Repetitive Head Injury Syndrome

Second Impact Syndrome or Repetitive Head Injury Syndrome is defined as:

Second impact syndrome (SIS), also known as repetitive head injury syndrome, describes a condition in which individual experiences a second head injury before complete recovery from an initial head injury.

National Library of Medicine

This SIS is actually what Rowan Stringer died from. Two concussion-worthy hits within a short time frame (five days) while playing high school rugby. Apparently, she did not share her symptoms with either her parents or her coaching staff. She just wanted to play. Unfortunately, this is much too common amongst ambitious, talented athletes. At what point do the athletes themselves get to decide if they are “OK” or not? Especially those under the age of eighteen like Rowan was. Incredibly, her parents turned their anguish and grief into some progress in this area with the creation of Rowan’s Law.

concussion protocol
Rowan Stringer

Miami Dolphins Upset Buffalo Bills

Professional sports teams have concussion protocols in place, at least they are supposed to. How strict they are is suspicious. If you were watching the Miami Dolphins beat the Buffalo Bills last weekend, you know what I mean. Miami’s quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa sustained injuries causing him to stumble repeatedly after the play. Although his injuries appeared to be concussion-related, he was quick to tell everyone the injury was to his back:

“On the quarterback sneak, I kind of got my legs caught under someone and then they were trying to push back and then kind of felt like I hyperextended my back or something,” Tagovailoa said after Sunday’s game, per All Dolphins. “And then on the next play I kind of hit my back and then I got back up and then that’s kind of like why I stumbled. My back kind of locked up on me. But for the most part, you know, I’m good, past whatever concussion protocol they had.”

Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins QB

The NFLPA (NFL players association) is investigating Tua’s results of Miami’s concussion protocol that was passed quickly enough for Tua to return to the game to close out the unexpected win, handing the Bills their first loss of the season.

Conclusions for Concussion Protocols

As a hockey and soccer mom, I know concussion protocols have been in place for years. On some teams. of course, there is always room for improvement.

Hopefully, Rowan’s Law and stricter concussion protocols on all teams will educate players, parents, and coaches/trainers/team owners about the dangers of playing at all costs.

As well, Dolphin fans are hopeful that Tua did indeed pass Miami’s concussion protocol and his injuries won’t prevent him from playing tonight’s game.

Update on Tua

Ironically, Tua was stretchered off the field during the game last night, a mere few hours after I posted this article about concussions. For what? Concussion-like injuries after another hit. Coincidence? I think not. Is this another case of Second Impact Syndrome?

For Tua’s sake, not to mention Miami Dolphin management and coaching staff, I hope not!

Habs Fans Boo Stutzle in Ottawa

Habs fans

I’m wondering why Habs fans felt the need to be so disrespectful and tacky when playing the Senators in Ottawa last night.

The loud booing by the considerable number of Habs fans every time Senator’s superstar Tim Stutzle touched the puck was annoying and disrespectful. The booing was a result of Habs’ Brendan Gallagher’s comments after the last time the two teams met. Basically, Gallagher alleged that Stutzle fakes injuries to draw penalties. Ironically, I saw a statistic today that showed Gallagher and Stutzle have the same number of diving/embellishment penalties, meaning Gallagher’s criticism is the pot calling the kettle black, so to speak.

The penalty in question was a dirty, potentially career-ending knee-on-knee hit delivered by Nick Suzuki. Stutzle did lie on the ice after the hit but recovered sufficiently to continue his shift. He did miss two subsequent games due to the injury though. Who remembers way back at the beginning of Sidney Crosby’s illustrious NHL career when Don Cherry ragged on Crosby for his “turtle” reaction that drew penalties? I do, I bet Crosby does too. He appeared to learn from that criticism; perhaps Stutzle will learn something from Gallagher’s comment and the booing fans. Stutzle’s obvious talent will draw enough hits from frustrated opposing players, he does not want to encourage more.

Ottawa began last night’s game with a touching (and yes, respectful) tribute to the late Guy Lafleur, a hockey legend that led Montreal to most of their Stanley cups. Lafleur never played for the Ottawa Senators, the gesture was to show respect for a Habs hero. To top it off, Senators goalie Anton Forsberg stopped 44 shots on net last night to lead his team to a (nother) win against Montreal.

Habs fans tacky and disrespectful in loss to Senators

Back to the previous game…Suzuki apologized for the hit the next time he met Stutzle in the faceoff circle. Well before Gallagher’s rant and the Senator’s victory.

Now that’s classy on Suzuki’s part.

Habs fans could learn something from both examples of respect and sportsmanship. And lose the tackiness.