The Physical Game
It’s well known that to get through the Western Conference is a test of endurance. It’s a physical affair and you don’t only have to beat your opponent on the score sheet but you have to physically out play them in order to win a series. For this reason we see the importance of blue-liners and the bottom six alike as the grit factor becomes (in some series, or on some nights) the deciding factor of a game.
The Canucks in game one not only dominated the play of the game but they out hit the Kings en route to an OT victory. The physical part of the game plays such an important role which a lot of people sometimes don’t realize. It affects the pace of the game, it has an impact on the smaller battles within the game and it has a big influence on the psyche of the team not only doing the hitting but the team being hit. In the case of the Canucks in game one, Edler was a derailed train that was hitting anything on skates wearing a crown. Edler’s play not only acts as something that amps up the team but it wears down a Kings team that in the case of game one, had no business being in such a close game. In what was Edler’s best game of the season his impact in the game due to his physical game was more than just his defensive play. When other players see how he’s playing the effect is contagious. The Canucks did a great job of feeding off of each other’s energy and they’re going to need it in game two tonight as well.
One of the Canucks goals as they advance through this playoffs should be to get into each series as fresh as possible. Sweeping ever series is not realistic and sometimes the extra days off aren’t ideal. The Canucks however need to come out of each game as the team that did the hitting, not the team that received the beat down. Later in the playoffs should they face a Chicago, a San Jose, or a Phoenix, they’re going to realize even more so than now that the grit game is a game within the game. If the Canucks can win the physical match-up most nights it’s going to have a long term benefit to them as the playoffs wind on. The loss of Mitchell to the grit game was huge, but should the Canucks go deep and Mitchell return his presence is not only going to fortify our blue line, it’s going to bring in a fresh pair of legs that’s going to play the way Edler did in game one, night in and night out.