Playoff hockey is a war fought in battles all over the ice. Along the boards. In the corners. And especially in front of the net. Thatís where the toughest fights take place.
In the playoffs, just getting to the net can be a struggle. Once youíre there, you fight twice as hard to get and maintain position. You must get physical and stand your ground. Your presence alone could be the traffic that screens a goalie.
Thereís always a defenseman pounding away at you in the slot. Pretend you donít notice. Whack away at the puck instead of retaliating. Itís never particularly pretty, but playoff goals rarely are. You have to grind it out.
You have to be smart, too. Battle honestly and donít do anything to hurt your team. Thereís a fine line between playing tough, physical hockey and taking a dumb penalty.
Everybody turns it up a notch in the postseason, playing with more of an edge than they normally would. Everyone works harder, too. That means youíd better be prepared to pay a price. But when a forward outworks a defenseman in the crease, he can buy his team a goal.
Spend any time in front of the net, and youíre going to get some bumps, bruises and cuts. Who cares? Youíd give anything for the Stanley Cup.
Jason Allison is a center on the Los Angeles Kings. This article appears in the May 13 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
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