Top Teams Face Early-Round Exits
April 3, 2009 by Big Tony
Coming down the stretch there have been a number of teams who are all but assured of playoff spots who have hit some turbulence. For example, New Jersey is in the middle of a six game losing streak, while teams in a similar position like Boston, San Jose, Calgary, Chicago, etc. have all hit similar rough patches in recent weeks. On the other hand teams who have been battling just to get into the playoffs (Pittsburgh, Carolina, St. Louis, Columbus, Vancouver to name a few) have really hit their stride as of late and are on their respective hot streaks. So what should be made of all of this? Well, quite frankly I think it’s great to have so many top teams becoming mediocre and teams working hard every night to get in getting so hot. That is because I think it will make for a very exciting and intriguing first round. No matter what the match-ups are there is going to be potential for a lot of upsets with a lot of teams with home-ice advantage finding themselves in a hole right off the bat. There are a lot of clichés to describe teams as being “battle-tested” or “playoff-ready” and while they may be true in a lot of cases (hence why they’re clichés) the intensity level of a team come playoff time is probably the biggest deal of all. As a result, what we’re seeing right now are a number of teams battling to get into the post-season playing with a high level of intensity. The players are hanging on every shift, every pass, every hit, every save, every goal; and that is exactly the mode you need to be in to be successful in the playoffs so it should be to their benefit to have been playing at such a high level for so long leading up to the playoffs. Meanwhile, the other top teams are muddling along just trying to “stay sharp” as their minds start to tire of the regular season and they begin to look ahead. By doing that the players are putting half-a** efforts into their playing which results in them losing their edge and can result in not just loses but a loss of focus and energy that can lead to injuries. All of that boils down to this; the teams who have been desperate will have that intensity level in the playoffs right away while the top teams will have a hard time just turning on that switch. By the time they do the series could be 2-0 heading into the other teams’ building and by that time the hill may be too big to climb resulting in plenty of first-round upsets.