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It Turns Out That Big Boy Hockey Is Still What Wins In The Playoffs

Oh noooo...bad day for the "we are going to draft nothing but defensemen under 5'11 180lbs for three years straight" crowd. Not naming any names

It has become en vogue to dismiss the physical side of the game. The analytics community devalue two things that consistently win in the playoffs: Blocking shots and hitting. Both things you can't do unless you don't have the puck. That is true. It's better to have the puck than to not have it. However, hockey is a fluid game. Turnovers happen. The puck will be lost and the teams who are willing to do difficult things to get it back will always been successful. We saw it play out in the bubble. All four teams in the conference finals were in the top 5 for hitting. Dallas, Vegas, and NYI all have forechecking and physicality as pillars of their success and DNA recently. TBL knew they were too soft in previous years and went out and got guys like Pat Maroon to go out and bang bodies in the playoffs and it worked. 

The NHL has never been better in my opinion. At least not in my lifetime. Speed is at an all-time high, skill is at an all-time high, and an emphasis of those things is too. Speed and skill are good things, but hockey is still hockey. And when it's the playoffs it is meant to be hard. The teams who are built to be able to play any style and will be physical when it matters will always win. You need skill to win. The Blackhawks Cup teams were never overly physical. They were loaded with warriors would would fight through it and compete and they had a ton of bite to their game. If you can't play that way in the playoffs you're not going to win. This year was just another example of that fact.