As is the case each playoff season, the team exhibiting composure and discipline -- and not necessarily the most talent -- is usually the one raising the Stanley Cup in June.
Several coaches and players currently in the heat of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring stand by that philosophy.
Detroit Red Wings
coach Mike Babcock, for example, needed his team to exhibit some playoff composure during its opening-round series with the Nashville Predators
. The Predators, who scored two goals in less than two minutes on four occasions through the first four games, had actually pulled into a 2-2 series deadlock with the Presidents’ Trophy winners before the latter proved its playoff moxie.
“The shift after you score or they score is one of the biggest shifts in the game,’’ Babcock said. “You either want to maintain momentum or you want to stop it. A big part of composure is just doing your job and trusting the other guy to do his.’’
Sounds simple enough, but establishing a sense of normalcy when your opponent has seemingly taken away your momentum is never an easy task.
“You really have to rely on your veteran players since they’re the ones displaying the composure that, you hope, becomes infectious on the rest of the group,’’ Philadelphia Flyers
coach John Stevens
said. “We’ve been able to play with energy and haven’t shown frustration and that’s a sign of composure. There are some veteran guys in this locker room who understand that you will have some adversity to overcome in any series, and I think we’ve been able to handle that.’’
Coaches are also tuned to conversations taking place on the bench and in the dressing room during the course of a game.
“On your bench and in your room, there’s always a level of conversation going on all the time,’’ Babcock said. “It’s pretty easy to monitor whether we’re saying the right things or not saying the right things.
“One of the things I like about a lack of composure is it shows you how bad you want to be successful,’’ he continued. “It’s way easier to lose composure at playoff time because you’re trying to win so badly.’’
One player who certainly hasn’t lost his sense of collectedness this playoff season is Flyers goalie Martin Biron
. Biron, who has stolen his share of games in this, his first postseason, sports a 2.60 goals-against average and .917 save percentage as his Flyers have shocked the world by taking a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series against top-seeded Montreal.
“Composure is a lot of different things,’’ Biron told NHL.com. “Composure can be how you play, game to game, while staying consistent and controlling your emotions. It’s also how you handle a different part of the game by not getting fazed by a goal or a questionable call that forces you to do things out of character that might hurt the team. You don’t want to be so intense to the point that you’re running around without any purpose either. You just have to stay grounded and be able to do what you have to do to help. It’s something you develop with experience.
“As a team, we’ve battled adversity all year and really matured and are continuing to do that in the playoffs.’’
Stevens said a team can certainly create a better atmosphere in and around the dressing room when playing with equanimity.
“I feel you do gain more energy when you’re able to play composed because frustration burns up a lot of energy,’’ said Stevens, whose team entered the postseason as the sixth seed in the East. “You can’t avoid it, but you have to bring attention to it and move on.’’
The Dallas Stars
, the fifth seed in the West, have also exhibited a tremendous amount of poise and discipline this postseason. The club was virtually written off after going 4-8-2 during its final 14 regular-season games before stunning the defending Stanley Cup champion and fourth-seeded Anaheim Ducks
in a six-game opening-round series.
Stars goalie Marty Turco
, who is 7-3 with a 1.88 GAA and .921 save percentage in the playoffs, has certainly played a huge role in the turnaround. Dallas holds a 3-1 series lead on second-seeded San Jose in the Western Conference semis.
“It’s all about commitment, stepping up and playing hard all year long,’’ Turco said. “In the playoffs, it’s leadership by committee and even though we struggled down the stretch it has made it all the more sweeter to be having the success now. We are focused on winning and we know there are peaks and valleys. We’ve talked about not just winning one playoff round but taking this as far as possible. We know we have the team and personnel to get it done.’’
Flyers center Mike Richards
admits having a coach on the bench that exhibits a calm demeanor at critical moments of a game has worked wonders for their team.
“It’s always nice to have a coach who’s calm on the bench,’’ Richards said. “Our captain, Jason Smith
, is also very encouraging. You can’t help but be calm yourself and go about your business when you’re working with individuals like that.’’
Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas
knows playing with coolness can go a long way in a grueling seven-game series.
“The team that stays disciplined and stays with the program is the one that is usually going to win,’’ Robidas said. “You just need to stick with it, no matter how frustrating it can be out there.’’
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.