The Coaches Room is a regular feature throughout the 2023-24 season by former NHL coaches and assistants who turn their critical gaze to the game and explain it through the lens of a teacher.

In this edition, Paul MacLean, former coach of the Ottawa Senators, who won the 2013 Jack Adams Award voted as NHL coach of the year, and assistant with the Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs, looks at how coaches deal with matchups in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

For coaches, the Stanley Cup Playoffs become a whole different beast, mostly because you only get seven games and in those seven games you're playing against the same team. 

Before you get to the playoffs, in your preparation, you define all the things your opponent does well and maybe they don't do well, and you discover the identity of your opponent and their style of play. 

Then you look at whether your style is better than theirs and what adjustments you potentially have to make game to game. And the adjustments can go not just game to game, but period to period and a lot of times, it goes shift by shift.

If we're talking about the Los Angeles Kings and the Edmonton Oilers, Connor McDavid's shifts versus somebody are going to be different than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' shifts against somebody or Derek Ryan's shift against somebody else. They might play those shifts differently and adjust according to who the opponent is and who is on the ice at that time. 

It takes a lot of practice from the team and preparation from the coaching staff knowing what things a team must do to counter the opposition and be ready to do it and execute it at the right time. 

Teams like the Oilers, who have those high-quality players and highly talented players who are winning Art Ross Trophies and do all the things they can do, patience sometimes is not the best thing they have going for them. And right now, playoff series demand patience, preparation, discipline and execution. Those are the four stools that I usually go by and that's what wins games in a series. 

In the playoffs, all your energy is on the one team. 

Lots of times in a two-week period during the regular season, you have seven different opponents, and you have seven different teams you have to prepare for and that's going over all their players and their structure. You're playing the same team every game, so injuries are going to play a part of it as the series goes on, and who can come in and be injury replacements for teams and what adjustments the opposition is going to make is important. 

It makes it a little simpler that you only have to prepare for one team, but you have to know them, and you have to get really in depth in it. 

You get to a point where you know if a player turns right in a situation as opposed to turning left. It can be as small a detail as that, or an obvious one like if you stop 97, then we have a really good chance of winning a game. And if you can do it four times, then you have a great chance of winning the series. 

There's a lot of details involved, and it takes a lot of work by the video coach and assistant coaches, but it's up to the head coach to initiate whatever adjustments you are going to make, shift to shift and period to period. 

In a playoff series, one game bleeds into the next depending on who won and who lost. If you win, then you look at what you did well and you want to continue to do those things. The things you were bad at, you want to do better. 

Both teams are doing the same thing, and the beauty of a playoff series is a lot of times, it comes down to player versus player, so you're basically playing against the same guy every shift for the next seven games or whoever gets to four wins first. So you see a lot of the whacking and the hacking you like saw with Max Domi and Brad Marchand in the start of the Toronto Maple Leafs-Boston Bruins series. It's all part of the playoffs, letting a guy know that you're going to be there and you're going to be ready to play. 

That's going to be different in the next game, it's going to get turned up or turned down depending on what's necessary and what's important in the game. If you get carried away with it, it can hurt your team in a lot of ways where you put your team at a disadvantage. No matter how bad the opposition's power play, if you give it enough opportunities, they're going to find a way to put the puck in the net.

Being emotionally controlled is probably the most important aspect of playoff hockey, having the ability to control your emotions and not to overreact to situations and not put your team in a bad spot because you feel you have to do more than you actually need to. Home-ice advantage is really important for the matchup part of it. If you're the lower-seeded team sometimes having the right matchup is more important than the higher seed, depending how you feel on your quality of players versus his and what his matchup could be. 

Being the home team sometimes can be harder than being the road team. You like to have the matchups you want, but the pressure is squarely on the home team, especially with the higher seed against a lower seed. 

Depending on where it is and what city it is, that pressure can be very daunting. One of the first things that has to be lifted and allow the players to relax and play is getting rid of that pressure at home. The best way to do that is by scoring first and getting the lead. Playing with the lead is easier than playing catchup hockey.