Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Regular Season vs. Playoff Hockey

As we’re gearing up for what hopefully ends up being a deep run by the Preds, I wanted to write a quick blog about the differences between Regular Season vs. Playoff hockey. As we’re all aware by now, the two “seasons” of hockey are completely different beasts. The successful teams are the ones that can turn these differences into advantages for their respective clubs. The question is, what are these differences? I’ve come up with a few and listed them below:

1) Refereeing
For better or worse, the zebras simply call post-peason games a little differently. To me, it seems that the rules revert back to pre-lockout hockey; meaning there’s more clutching and grabbing, more post-whistle scrums, and far fewer whistles. Many hockey fans feel that if a play is a penalty in the regular season, it should be one in the playoffs. To an extent I agree…however, it is a completely new season. Refs really don’t want a game, such less a series to be predicated upon a weak call. I’m a fan of letting the players play—unless the infraction is clear and advertant.

2) Politics
In post-season hockey, you’ve got to have the politics…meaning that coaches have to work the refs. The players have to work the refs. To an extent, they almost have to become Sidney Crosby and whine all the time. This is one area in which the Preds have always suffered. Barry Trotz is a stoic individual, at least in view of the public. While I will say he does show a little more expression now than a simple twitch of his eyebrow, as in years past, he is not one to hammer home a point with the refs. I recall a few years back in one of the San Jose series, reading an article that the SJ coach had a “meeting of the minds” post game with the referee crew, as his was unhappy with a lack of calls. From that point, SJ began to get more whistles in their favor. While we don’t want to be a team of whiners, the Preds have got to learn to stand their ground and try to get make-up calls.

3) Intensity
I don’t think there’s any explanation needed to this point. The hits come harder after the regular season ends. The players skate faster. The shots get a little hotter. The teams that are able to adjust their game to this style of play are successful. Period. We have not been able to consistently do that in our previous 5 trips. This year, however, I think will be a little different. To me, this Preds team is very well-equipped to make a deep run. We have established guys who will grind and muck it out in the corners, 4 D-men who are usually positionally sound and smart with the puck (and 2 who scare me every time they’re on the ice [55 & 8]) , and a goalie who is playing out of his mind. If the Preds are able to set the tone and speed, we WILL win the series.

4) Every Play Matters
Game 5 of the 2010 Opening round, anyone? Anyone? We can have none of that. Every dump & chase matters. Every time we make one pass too many on the PP matters. Every PK will matter, especially against the Big Line and the Ageless One. I believe the last man that will make a dumb pass through the middle will be Marty Erat this year!

Hopefully my ramblings have made sense. This series is ours for the taking. I believe that the Preds are the better TEAM. Now, it’s up to the guys to prove it. I’m jacked up. Are you?


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