Playoff tips from the pros: 4 NHL stars share their advice
The second half of the NHL season is here and the playoffs will be upon us before we know it. They are one of the most exciting and stressful times for hockey fans and players alike. While many are elated at the chance to compete for a championship, the road to lifting the Cup is grueling—both physically and mentally.
For teams that are lucky enough to make it to the playoffs, players have already faced unimaginable fatigue just from battling through their regular season. And to maintain that momentum to forge ahead, they’ll need to handle the inevitable exhaustion that comes with the tons of pressure they will face.
It’s not for nothing that a professional team’s ability to succeed during the playoffs takes incredible resolve, not to mention a lot of puck luck. Regardless of how a team performs during the regular season, they have to pull out all the stops to make it through each series of the playoffs.
For hockey fans, this is one of the most exciting elements of watching the postseason. It’s sink or swim time. Not surprisingly, this makes the playoffs one of the most popular times to bet on the NHL. Many take advantage of free bet offers from FanDuel and other sportsbooks to back a favorite—or even an underdog—team.
But for those that play in the beer leagues and will soon be facing the playoffs themselves, there’s a lot to consider. And no doubt these playoff tips can be useful. You may not exactly be hoisting the holy grail, but the exhilaration of winning it all can taste just as sweet. So with a look ahead to your own playoffs, here are a tips from some of the NHL’s postseason superstars.
Playoff Tips From the Pros
Last year, the NHLPA polled its players about who they’d want to play with if they needed a win. A startling 42.4% of NHL players said they would opt for McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers on their team. That is despite the fact that he tends to lessen his goal count during the playoffs to only one per game.
So what does McDavid advise hockey players to do to perform at their peak during the playoffs? One of his playoff tips concerns his goal scoring. McDavid has said, “Guys that have the best shot in the world still shoot pucks, and that’s for a reason.” In other words, don’t hang back. Keep working on putting those pucks on net.
Heading into last season’s playoffs, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs was the number one player to watch. In fact, the entire season saw Matthews continue to climb to a new level of goal-scoring power—so much so that he set a record for the Leafs.
While some may not be able to forget his 2018 playoff performance, Matthews has certainly put the past in the rearview mirror. And that might be one of his top takeaways. As Matthews himself once said, “Having a good regular season isn’t really cutting it anymore.” To put it another way, keep your focus on the playoffs from the first game of the preseason. Never forget that aim.
Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche is a shining example of a top-performing defenseman. Despite his contribution on the blue line, Makar has also become one of the highest-scoring defensive players in the league. That means his playoff performances are even more important—they affect both his team’s offensive and defensive domination on the ice.
Just what is Makar’s secret sauce? A look at his stats suggests that players should focus their efforts on controlling the power play, which happens to be Makar’s specialty. In any case, Makar continues to reference being humble and working hard.
As one of the leading players of his generation, hockey pundits regularly zero in on Kirill Kaprizov of the Minnesota Wild. He’s one of the league’s best sharpshooters—but that’s not his only appeal. Along with scoring power Kaprizov also offers playmaking moves, which are highlighted by his ability to string together plays and tally assists. This type of unselfish play is one of the key elements that makes him a valuable player. You’d want to follow this playoff tip.
That’s especially important in the postseason. During the playoffs, some players have a tendency to hold onto the puck and attempt to notch a goal themselves. However, Kaprizov’s greatest contribution is his attitude toward teamwork. This is what helps him dominate his opponents during the playoffs: maintaining a tight focus on winning for his whole team.
This approach can be summarized perfectly by Kaprizov’s response following a tough loss in last year’s postseason. As he told reporters, “Things haven’t been great and I think it’s up to every guy on the team to do some soul searching…” When the stress is high, it’s easy to point fingers. But Kaprizov’s advice is to instead reflect on yourself. That’s certainly a playoff tip you can use.
The playoffs can be a grind, no matter what level you play at. Your best bet is to keep in shape and stay sharp and focused, so that you too can be a winner when it counts the most.
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