Much sweat and blood has been invested in a playoff season that has surprised many. Certainly, parity has played a part in the exits of top seeds and favorites in the early rounds, where the work harder/give more mantra is enough to make a difference. The Western Conference is evidence of that, as both coaches of the finalists, Dave Tippett in Phoenix and Darryl Sutter in Los Angeles, have long subscribed to that coaching credo. Same in the east where John Tortorella's Rangers and Dale Hunter's Capitals are set for a Game 7 on Saturday night because both men have their respective teams sacrificing everything physically to an utterly jaw-dropping degree.
Playoff hockey has always been more demanding physically. Never, however, has the game seen success tied so closely to shot-blocking, heavy-hitting and more shot-blocking. Hunter's managing of ice time minutes based on roles that are tied to game situations has raised eyebrows throughout the playoffs because Alex Ovechkin has not played much when the Capitals have the lead. Well, Game 6 proved that Ovechkin realizes what Hunter wants from all of his players all of the time, as he turned in a complete game -- under control and within the team structure. Ovechkin even blocked shots in a defensive posture and not in a blitz of the point man in hopes of having the puck carom off his shin pads and lead to a breakaway.