The Stanley Cup Playoffs are back! Along with the wildly entertaining, wire to wire action comes the common storylines that are debated by self- proclaimed hockey aficionados year after year.

With a fresh pint, staring at a mountain of nachos you’ll overhear:

“Man, if the (insert any Pennsylvanian team here) could only get some average goaltending they’d be unbeatable”

“This reffing is an absolute joke!” While this statement usually comes from the fan watching their team head to the box, it has been difficult, at times, to constitute what’s a penalty and what isn’t.

“The Canucks are a bunch of divers” No comment.

One of my favourite things to watch for is what players rise to the occasion and elevate their play at this time of year. There’s been some great examples in the past in the ultimate pest; Claude Lemieux. Highlighted by his 2006-2007 playoff, notching 23 points in just 17 games his level of play always peaked at playoff time. Not only was he scoring timely goals, he was agitating, playing dirty, greasy playoff hockey (ask Kris Draper). There have been others; Ville Leino for example, who seemingly forgot how to play altogether once the playoffs ended but Lemieux is always the guy that comes to mind.

This is a time for passion, and real, authentic winners... guys that want it. Here are a couple guys that have stepped it up:

Milan Lucic: It was tough to watch him play in the regular season this year, knowing what he is capable of. He appeared disengaged and lethargic out there. Rarely hitting, fighting or scoring it looked as though playing almost every second night was taking a toll on the rough and tumble winger.

And then the playoffs started. After scoring just 7 regular season goals, he’s got 3 goals and 7 assists in 9 playoff games. Points are not the most accurate measure of play when assessing a player like Milan Lucic though. In game 7 versus Toronto, down 4-1 in the third, an already defeated Boston team needed a spark in a big way. Lucic could be seen on the bench letting out primal screams and pounding on his chest. When Julien let him out of his cage and onto the ice he went wild! Huge hits, scoring chances and an overall intimidating presence ensued. He inspired his team to keep fighting and they came back and won the game in overtime. The beast is back.

Kyle Okposo: Yes. I’m aware the Islanders only had 6 playoff games. It’s a small sample size but Okposo was a weapon for the surprising Islanders. Okposo had an ordinary regular season with just 4 goals in 48 games but managed to pot 3 in just 6 playoff games. Like Lucic, Okposo plays a physical game and it was shining brightly as he threw his weight around on every shift. He dropped Matt Niskanen with one hard blow in a fight, and proceeded to beak the entire Penguins team skating by their bench. He was one of their most consistent and dangerous players and I would love to see more of it.

Who are you most impressed with? Who else has elevated their playoff game to beast-mode levels?

Enjoy the playoffs, this is hockey at its best!


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