Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kings Win Game 1; No Mental Edge Yet

In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals Anze Kopitar scored in overtime to give the Kings a 9-0 record on the road this post-season. I have never seen a run like this in any sport. What the Kings are doing is remarkable.

According to most pundits, including yours truly, getting off to a good start and winning the first period would be crucial in this series. The Kings did just that. While New Jersey was able to hang in there with good goaltending by Brodeur, LA could have easily been up by two or three goals. In Game 1 the first period was not the difference; the Devils tied the game in the second and it would stay 1-1 until Kopitar's breakaway goal in the first overtime.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mentally Tough Performer of the Week #6 2012 NHL Playoffs: Martin Brodeur

Week six of the NHL Playoffs saw the Kings make their first Stanley Cup appearance since 1993 and the Devils defeat their rivals the Rangers in overtime. Players in these playoffs have exhibited mental toughness throughout. But few players have shown greater mental toughness over the last two decades than 40-year-old goalie Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils.

I feel Brodeur deserves to be the Mentally Tough Performer of Week 6 of the 2012 NHL Playoffs for three main reasons. First, Brodeur is 40 and most people at that age are talking about their reducing skills and old age. Not Brodeur. He has exhibited the ability to compete at the highest level into his forties.

Second, Brodeur was outstanding against the Rangers. Being out shot in the last two games after the first period pretty convincingly, Brodeur kept the Rangers at bay and gave the Devils a chance to win each game. For the series Brodeur had a 2.00 goals against average and nearly 93% save percentage. Outstanding effort under intense pressure.

Third, Brodeur gave the puck away in Game 5 to allow the Rangers to tie the game in the third period. The give away did not faze Brodeur. He bounced back to shut down the Rangers the rest of the way and then play an excellent close-out game in Game 6. Mental toughness is not about being perfect, but it is about bouncing back when you have made a crucial mistake. Brodeur came up big time after a big time mistake.

Friday, May 25, 2012

New York Rangers need to win two straight just like in 1994

Any one in the Rangers locker room want to guarantee victory in Games 6 and 7? Have I gone back in a time machine to 1994? How interesting it is that the 1994 rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals between New Jersey and New York Rangers is exactly where it was 18 years ago - 3-2 Devils going back to New Jersey.

Back in 1994 Mark Messier, captain of the Rangers and the NHL's model alpha captain, proclaimed that the Rangers would win Game 6 in New Jersey to force a Game 7. Messier scored a hat trick in that Game 6 victory believe it or not (for the younger readers) over Martin Brodeur.

Can the Rangers repeat history? Can they buck history by winning three straight seven game series? These are hard to answer questions. The Rangers are really good at limiting their opponents offensive chances and Lundqvist is normally solid to brilliant. However, the Devils have that look of a team of destiny. They believe. Their role players are producing. They are not backing down. Their back was against the wall versus Florida and they won two straight game to win the series. After losing Game 1 to the Flyers they took control and won the next four games. The Devils are going to be difficult to handle in Game 6.

Mental Toughness Quote: DeBoer on Closing Out the Rangers and Pressure

Peter DeBoer, coach of the New Jersey Devils, talks about trying to close out the Rangers and how winning the fourth game is the hardest.

"I don’t think there’s any extra difficulty, other than the difficulty you put on yourself, that pressure that you put on yourself," DeBoer said. "I don’t really buy into that, that it’s the hardest to win. It’s the hardest to win because of the pressure you put on yourself to do that. For us, it’s business as usual. We just have to play a game and win a game." We'll see if that strategy pays off for the Devils on Friday as they attempt to eliminate the Rangers and advance to the Stanley Cup finals. May. 25 - 1:38 pm et
Source: The Bergen Record

Friday, May 18, 2012

Rangers, Kings, Devils, Caps Amazing Commitment to Blocking Shots

The commitment to sacrificing your body for the good of the team. Would you do it? The Kings willingness to block shots and discipline to constantly have stick on puck defense has put them within a game of the Stanley Cup Finals. But, it is not as easy as just saying "Yeah, I'll block shots". It takes commitment. The Kings, Devils, Rangers, and Capitals have made it routine to drop down to the ice and take a shot for the team. Their commitment to blocking shots has been amazing.

When a player does not sacrifice by diving in front of a puck it becomes news. Supposedly Coach John Tortorella benched Marian Gaborik, star Rangers forward, in the third period of Game 2 when he did not go down to one knee to block a shot. That shot would be redirected in to the net and give the Devils a lead they would never relinquish. It was an interesting decision to sit Gaborik for all but three minutes of the third period as the Rangers needed a goal to tie the game. The Rangers did not and the series is tied 1-1. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mentally Tough Performer of the Week #5 2012 NHL Playoffs: Jonathan Quick

For Week 5 of the NHL Playoffs it was a toss up as to who would be the mentally tough performer of the week. They both come from the same team, the LA Kings, who are dominating the Western Conference. Seven straight playoff road wins is an unbelievable feat. They have lost only one game this post season and are a scintillating 10-1. Two games from the Finals and six from hoisting the Cup, the Kings have had outstanding performances from a number of players up and down their lineup.

So, I was stuck between Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick. I am going to give Jonathan Quick his due here as the mentally tough performer of Week 5. Quick has stopped 49 of 51 Coyotes' shots and has become an intimidating force. He is in the heads of opposing shooters and is providing the kind of consistent, focused effort that we saw from Tim Thomas last year. I think there is a good chance Quick's season may end like Thomas' but that is down the road. For now, Quick has again given his opponent nothing to rejoice about; no hope and nothing to make them think he is going to have a bad game or even period. He is stopping everything and is staying unbelievably focused. Quick has gone to a stratospheric level of performance and showing the confidence and focus of a player worthy of the Conn Smythe.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mental Toughness Quote: Rangers Win Second Game 7 in 2012 Playoffs

"It's a great feeling to see we stayed focused whatever happens," said Lundqvist, who made 22 saves, 11 in the second period, to reach the conference finals for the first time in his career. "Yeah, we give up a goal and they get on the power play but we know what we have to do. We've been in this situation so many times this year and I think it helped us a lot today and moving forward as well." From Rangers defeat Caps 2-1

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lundqvist's Mental Preparation for Game 7

Going into a big game finding the right mindset is as important as being physically ready. Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers is preparing for Game 7 versus Washington by taking a mental break first before he ramps up his focus and intensity.

This article comes from Dave Lozo at

Lundqvist ready mentally for another do-or-die game

Any young goalie should read this article. It gives great insights into the mindset of an all-world goaltender as he prepares for one of the biggest games of his life. Great quotes about not trying to focus too much on the game and taking a mental break because the playoffs are physically, psychologically, and emotionally draining. Furthermore, loved the quote about managing the emotions of the game. You have to get to an appropriate intensity. In Game 7 it is easy to get high; players should attempt to stay relaxed in what will be a rocking Madison Square Garden.

Friday, May 11, 2012

NHL Game 7s, the Best Theatre in Sport

A Game 7 in the NHL Playoffs provides, in my opinion, the most exciting dynamics in all of sports. The finality of it all. Knowing your opponent inside and out after two weeks of battling. The rivalry that is formed and the match-ups that have been played out with success and failure. Adjustments that are made on the fly during games and in the day off between games. Physical punishment that has been delivered and accepted. The anxiety of the teams and their fan bases. The release of emotion when one team is able to gain a significant advantage in the game. The looks to the sky to say thank you when the goalie makes a huge save, when a defenseman blocks a shot on an open net, or just to look at the scoreboard clock as it ticks down.

The thrill of Game 7, so much energy and intensity. The Caps and Rangers have played a Game 7 already in the first round, but each series takes on its own personality and has its own flow and rhythm. For Washington and New York the series has bounced back and forth with neither team being able to carry momentum very long. This Game 7 will be a test of composure and patience. It will be low scoring and tight checking. Both goaltenders are playing well and the defense is blocking tons of shots. The Caps and Rangers are fully committed to a team game and Game 7 should be no different.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mentally Tough Performer of the Week #4 2012 NHL Playoffs: Brad Richards

As the second round of the 2012 NHL Playoffs closes we are seeing remarkable goaltending, physical hockey, and good defensive play. While three of the four series have already ended in four or five games, Washington and New York will be playing a Game 7 Saturday night. There are many players that have played pivotal roles in this seven-game battle, but no one has scored a bigger goal than Brad Richards of the Rangers.

Richards probably saved the Rangers season by scoring a goal with 7 seconds left in Game 5 to send it to overtime where the Rangers would score again to win it. Not only was Richards' timing impeccable but he had to beat about three Caps players to a loose puck in front of the net and slip it past Holtby who has been playing outstanding. Richards showed perseverance and mental toughness by staying in the game mentally, not panicking when an opportunity presented it's self, and coming up big when he was needed. Brad Richards is leading the Rangers in scoring in the playoffs and has been the playoff performer they were hoping for in New York. For his clutch goal and for all-around leading by example in two very tough rounds, Brad Richards is the Mentally Tough Performer of Week #4 of the 2012 NHL Playoffs.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Six Factors that are Needed to Comeback from a 3-1 Series Deficit

Is there a great comeback in the cards for Philly or Washington?

The dust has settled on the second round in the West. Phoenix and Los Angeles emphatically moved on to the Western Conference Finals. St. Louis and Nashville were unable to extend the series and push for a comeback. In the East, however, both series continue. The Rangers stole a victory from the Caps tying the game in the last seven seconds of regulation and then less than two minutes into overtime they struck for the winner.

If the Capitals are to win this series they will have to win two straight. They cannot allow the disappointment of Game 5 to carry over. They must move on and be ready to play intense, urgent hockey.

In the other series New Jersey has aggressively jumped out to a 3-1 series lead on Philadelphia. The Flyers have been beaten by an attacking Devils forecheck that has them playing on their heels. The Flyers skate tonight at the brink of elimination.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Hockey Edge Newsletter April 2012 is available

Hockey Edge Newsletter April 2012

The latest Hockey Edge Newsletter is available. In it you will find information on how to manage emotions in pressure situations, be resilient when things are not going well, and close out a series.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mentally Tough Performer of the Week #3 2012 NHL Playoffs: Mike Richards

The mentally tough performer for week #3 of the 2012 NHL Playoffs was not easy to select. I will give it to Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards who has shown again that he brings his best in the playoffs. Richards started Game 2 of the series against the St. Louis Blues with a big hit and then scored the first goal in the Kings win.

Despite not wearing the "C" as he did in Philadelphia, Richards has continued to lead in LA with his gritty, tough play and knack for making big plays in the playoffs. He does not back down from much larger defenseman. Richards exacts a physical toll on his opponent, and himself, every time he hits the ice. He has set the example for consistent, intelligent play that will help the Kings make a run at the Cup. Richards is leading all scorers in the first three games in their second round series against St. Louis, but he has done more than that. He is leading by example every time he hits the ice and is making a huge difference for the Kings.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Los Angeles not Playing the #8 Seed

Last time I checked Los Angeles sneaked into the playoffs as the #8 seed and lost their final two games to San Jose to lose the division lead. So, you would expect them to be knocked out quickly in the first round by the defending Western Conference champion Canucks, right? Not so fast. Los Angeles jumped on Vancouver early winning both games on the road and outplaying the Canucks in a five-game series win.

Ok, so the dream run will end with the young St. Louis Blues who looked very impressive against a veteran Sharks team. Again, not so fast. LA has jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the home team and higher seed. How have the Kings been able to dominant the two top seeds in the West?