The hockey pundits are already talking. Will the Tampa Bay Lightning have what it takes in 2013-14 to compete for a playoff spot? Are they tough enough to play in the post-season?The Associated Press ran a story in May of 2004 asking a similar question. Reporters wondered whether or not the Lightning’s speed and youth could overcome the Philadelphia Flyer’s size and experience. We all know the outcome.
But it was then Coach John Tortorella who said,
I think when you start talking about physical play, people equate that with big hits…To me, when it comes to toughness, it’s making a big play in traffic…It’s you whacking me in the face and me not hitting you in the face and sitting in the (penalty) box. That’s tough.
He’s got a point.
Anyone who watched the Blackhawks and the Bruins slug it out in this year’s Stanley Cup Final witnessed desperation, big hits, and bodies falling all over the ice blocking shots. As each playoff series progressed, the advancing teams seemed to discover higher degrees of intensity in their game.
So if toughness to you means B. J. Crombeen or someone else looking to slug it out every game to make a point, think again. No doubt physical toughness is a critical component of a playoff-bound team. But the toughness that ensures playoff success is just as much about brains as it is about blood on the ice.