With the playoffs getting ready to start, we will be treated to some of the most intense hockey you will see. With the right to raise the Stanley Cup on the line, players will push themselves harder and further than they will ever go.
There is a style of hockey that is a proven method of success for teams, and that is to play a hard-noise, physical brand of hockey, wearing down your opponent over a seven game series. The Boston Bruins have been to two Stanley Cup finals since 2011 because of their ability to play this way. The Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup twice since 2010 for the same reason.
To succeed playing that way, it helps to have big powerful forwards that are willing to go to the dirty areas and throw their body around to create opportunities in the offensive zone.
When looking at the Florida Panthers, and their roster, they have the one aspect of this style that you can’t teach – size. Their projected top-two centers for the projectable future are both 6’3 (Alexsander Barkov) and 6’6 (Nick Bjugstad), not only containing the size but also the skill to dominant.
Quinton Howden has the size speed to be a NHL contributor, Jimmy Hayes showed – due to his size alone – that he has a future in the NHL as at worst a fourth line power forward with the ability to succeed on the power play. With ten goals in a little over half a season worth of games played, Hayes is on nearly a 20-goal pace over a full season.
We have seen glimpses of the Panthers succeeding when playing this way, but their ability to stick to that style will determine how quickly they rise out of the basement of the standings.
It can be hard for a young team to commit to playing the body, not only is it taxing on the opponents body – it is on your own. But bringing in a player that can remind you of the good that can come out of it, and that show you by example of the rewards of playing physical hockey.