Three of the four remaining teams in the NHL playoffs value skill over aggression, which is a hopeful trend in the NHL. NHL teams tend to copy success — so the team that wins the Cup sets a template for other teams. And this year, three of the four divisional playoffs were won by the best-skating team in the pool. Pittsburgh, Tampa and San Jose are all built around using team speed to wear down the other team. Only St. Louis beat a team that outskated them — knocking off Chicago — but that took a full seven games. The Blues have players who can skate, but with players like Backes and Brouwer, they are more inclined to wear you down with muscle than foot speed.
And speed has been a real weapon. Almost all of the top 20 scorers are among the best skaters on their teams. And in the East in particular, the Penguins line of Kessel, Bonino and Hagelin made the Rangers and Caps’ lives miserable and Tampa is deep into its second consecutive postseason largely on the strength of its Triplets line (particularly with the injury to caption Steve Stamkos).
Among recent winners, Chicago has been the model for skating teams, with LA and the Bruins preferring a grind-it-out, face-to-the-boards approach to creating offense. But its hard to imagine the Blues getting past the Sharks, let alone whoever comes out of the East (I had Pittsburgh before the playoffs started and haven’t seen anything to change my mind).
With a little luck, we’ll see more teams choosing to try to outskate instead of outmuscling their opponents over the next few years.