To see Penguins playoff intensity on display, watch these areas of the ice
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The idea that the intensity of the game increases exponentially once the regular season ends and the Stanley Cup playoffs begin is an accepted fact around the NHL.
Players treat it like an article of faith. Fans, huddled around their televisions, swear by it. Entire ad campaigns are built on it.
But what exactly does that mean once the puck drops?
As they made final preparations for Game 1 of a first-round series against the New York Islanders on Wednesday, several Pittsburgh Penguins players pointed out specific areas of the game where ramped-up intensity will be on display in the postseason.
Winger Garrett Wilson suggested watching an attacking team on the forecheck.
Every forward will attempt to finish every check, trying to run opposing defensemen through the boards whenever possible. In addition to being a byproduct of raging adrenaline, it’s also a smart investment for later in the series.
“Guys are definitely going hard on the forecheck, trying to get in and get their hits, trying to wear the other team down,” Wilson said. “I think that’s where you see it the most.”
Winger Dominik Simon suggested paying close attention to the first few shifts of the game.
“It’s a different level,” he said. “It’s way more physical and stuff, and it just keeps rolling. You hear the fans more. The fans are way louder. The game is quicker. It’s more physical. Emotions are higher. Stakes are higher.”
Simon pointed out a few other areas of the game where playoff intensity is easy to spot.
In the defensive zone, players will try to block every shot, from a harmless lob from the point to a blazing slapper that hits triple digits on the radar gun.
“You try to eat every puck,” Simon said. “It doesn’t matter how.”
He also mentioned the high-stakes moments at each blue line. Offensive players often will safely get a puck deep rather than making a risky play to try to create a scoring chance. Defensive players will fight like their careers depend on it to get a clear when the puck is loose on the half-wall.
“Every inch of the ice becomes a little bit more difficult to gain,” defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. “The value of little plays that seem meaningless rise astronomically. Obviously the physicality is probably the one that’s the most noticeable, but it really comes down to the intricacies of the game that become so much more valuable.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .