Monday, 3 June 2013

It's A Simple Equation

For a long time on this blog, I have reminded people that there is one factor, one unwritten rule, that exists in life that has no comparison in terms of its power. It's what one would call a "great equalizer", and it routinely shows up in everyday life despite how under-appreciated it seems to be. It's not something that can be taught from a textbook nor is it something learned without sacrifice. It takes a humble person to enable its power, and once that power is unleashed, it seems unstoppable.

So what is it that I'm talking about so cryptically?

Hard work.

The Boston Bruins discovered in their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs that hard work can trump talent on any night of the week. Leading 3-1 in their series against the Maple Leafs, Boston was outworked for two games and two periods before they finally discovered that hard work is necessary to win. Toronto arguably has nowhere near the talent level that Boston does, yet there was Toronto leading 4-1 in the third period of Game Seven when Boston awoke from its slumber.

Boston literally pulled themselves from infamy in defeating Toronto. They then went out in Round Two and showed the New York Rangers the textbook definition of hard work in eliminating them in five games. And now they are schooling the Pittsburgh Penguins on what hard work is all about as they lead the Eastern Conference Final by a 2-0 count.

It's the little things that Boston is doing that is helping them win, but these are the very things from which hard work is derived. They win faceoffs. They win races to loose pucks. They backcheck harder than they skate down the ice. They finish checks. They clear pucks as soon as possible. They just do the little things right, but it all starts with hard work in getting to this point.

I have heard many players lament doing faceoffs in practice because it's "boring". Yet winning a faceoff is key to a number of things: puck control, puck possession, offensive chances, and reducing shots on goal. The Bruins are masters at this skill, often having wingers with better faceoff winning percentages than their opponents' centermen.

Learning how to win a faceoff isn't something you can pick up overnight. It takes practice - a lot of practice - to learn how to win three of every five faceoffs. It takes dedication. It takes skills that are developed from doing the same task over and over again until you've perfected it. In other words, it takes a lot of hard work to be the best faceoff man you can be.

Winning races to loose pucks? That takes some nerve in knowing that you'll be required to sacrifice your body in taking a hit, but the trade-off is that you'll control the puck again. It requires speed, determination, and will to win that race for the puck, but that hard work going into winning that race normally results in having possession of the puck which, in turn, results into more scoring chances.

The Pittsburgh Penguins haven't had that awakening yet in their first two series. Boston, as stated above, learned that lesson in almost allowing the Toronto series to slip away, Chicago experienced it being down 3-1 to Detroit, and Los Angeles experienced it being down 2-0 to St. Louis. Once a tam has learned how to work hard in the face of adversity, it changes the mindset of all the players. Pittsburgh, right now, looks lost out on the ice and have yet to show any backbone in accepting that they need to work hard to score a couple of goals.

Again, it's a very easy equation when everything is boiled down: hard work > talent. Of course, if you have hard work + talent, there is no equaling that sum on this planet. Pittsburgh's finding that out the hard way, and it may only get worse before it gets any better as the series shifts to Boston.

Anyone out there predict that both Conference Finals would be sweeps? No? Me Neither.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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