Hockey players and coaches who have participated in the playoffs, know that the energy and intensity in these games increases from the regular season. After the many ebbs and flows of the season come to an end, it’s now time to play for keeps! The five things that teams need to consider to succeed in the playoffs are:
1. The overall intensity is higher because of the importance of each game and the familiar foes in the best of seven series.
The game becomes quicker, the hits harder and less about thinking more about being; it becomes very intuitive and creative. Connection to teammates, coaches and trust of the process is key. Also, not allowing your opponents to throw you off your game will be a big factor.
2. Players struggling with the “playing hurt vs playing injured” dilemma
As playoffs happen at the end of a long season, some playoff matches become a game of attrition. Many player cross the line into playing injured but their effectiveness suffers. Awareness is key. Accepting soreness, fatigue, and pain without it becoming an energy drain is essential. Making conscious, intelligent choices about short term gain in light of long term consequences is essential.
3. Playing time will be given to those that are battle ready!
Coaches are going to ride their horses in order to win. If players can’t handle the pressure they will sit. Nothing is personal. Players must increase their awareness, energy, engagement and confidence in order to increase their potential and compete level. There is no room for drifters in the room. Determined focus is the call to battle.
4. Players must truly understand the meaning of playing for each other.
A deep bond is created in the adversity of playing in the ups and downs of the playoffs. Understanding that they are going through a once in a lifetime experience with their coaches and team mates, players must commit to playing their best and be willing to be held accountable to that standard.
5. Momentum shifts in any series, can happen at any time
A timely goal, an awesome save, a fight, you just never know when it will happen. Even a coach or GM addressing the media can have an effect. Energy flows to teams who impose their will and game plan on the other team. Success (mastery of the process) does not happen by luck, it has to be intentional. Winning is the outcome of a team focused on playing the game, one shift, one game at a time.
The mental mindsets, physical limits, and the will to win, are tested significantly in the playoffs. These five considerations can be the difference between winning a game, series or having the season come to an abrupt end. The team that can put it all together and peak during this time, will ultimately end up being crowned the champions.
By Walter Aguilar
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