6 Biggest Components to an NHL Team Building Chemistry
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Invariably, when the Stanley Cup is won, team chemistry is regularly cited as a big factor.
Hockey teams, perhaps more than their opposite numbers in baseball, football and basketball, develop a camaraderie that is palpable.
Players develop friendships and care about each other and they are probably just as happy for their teammates as they are for themselves when the cup is finally raised.
Chemistry seems to be an elusive factor, but it is built on a number of key elements. Championship teams regularly have many factors they build on to gain that elusive chemistry.
It's not just about having a great group of guys "in the room."
It's about having guys who can produce when the game is on the line.
That takes talent.
Last year's Los Angeles Kings were a solid-looking team throughout the year with talent up and down the roster. However, there was something missing until a late-season trade that saw them bring in talented scorer Jeff Carter.
Carter skated in the final 16 regular-season games and scored six goals. That's when the Kings made their final push and clinched a playoff spot.
Once they got to the postseason, Carter potted eight goals in 20 games and the Kings won their first Stanley Cup.
Once the Kings acquired Carter, the players and coaching staff knew the team had enough scoring ability and talent to win a championship. They did not miss a step the rest of the way.
Jonathan Toews is unquestionably one of the Blackhawks' team leaders.
Leadership is tough to define and it means different things to different championship teams.
It can come from a coach or a player in the form of a speech. Or it can come in the collective form.
When the Blackhawks went to overtime in the sixth game of the Stanley Cup Final against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, the Hawks spoke collectively in the locker room and concluded that somebody would be a hero (source: NHL.com) once the overtime session started.
That turned out to be Patrick Kane, as he scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal.
When the Bruins won their Stanley Cup in 2011, they looked to defenseman Zdeno Chara to make a stand physically, whenever they needed a lift. If Chara delivered his shoulder to an opponent's chest, it invariably gave his team a lift.
Shawn Thornton stood up for his injured teammate Marc Savard.
Toughness has always played a key role on winning hockey teams
A player who is unafraid to stand up for his teammates can always bring that team together and improve the chemistry.
After Marc Savard was sent reeling by a Matt Cooke hit to the head in a 2010 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Shawn Thornton stood up for his badly injured teammate by giving Cooke a beatdown in the next game that the Bruins faced the Penguins.
The moment was not a revelation, but it reinforced the team chemistry the Bruins knew they had prior to the incident.
Success in Key Games
During the Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup run, they faced a gritty, game Nashville Predators squad in the first round of the playoffs.
The Predators held their own in the first four games and went into Game 5 even in the series at 2-2. Going into the final moments of the third period, the Preds had a 4-3 lead at the United Center. It looked gloomy for the Hawks when Marian Hossa took a five-minute major boarding penalty with slightly over a minute to go in regulation.
Despite their short-handed situation, Patrick Kane managed to score the tying goal with 14 seconds left in regulation.
Still, the Blackhawks were shorthanded for nearly the first four minutes in overtime. Shortly after they killed the remainder of the penalty, Hossa scored the game-winning goal.
When a team wins a game like that, it has the chemistry to believe it can come through in any situation.
Hockey players need to trust each other.
They need to know that they have each other's back.
If a player makes a mistake and the opponent scores a key goal as a result, an accountable teammate will stand up in the locker room and admit his culpability.
He won't make excuses or point the finger at anyone else. He will take the blame and take his teammates off the hook.
When a team is in the process of developing chemistry, it helps if that team has one or two players who can stand up and meet the media's needs when it comes to answering questions in a thorough and thoughtful manner.
If that player is a superstar like Sidney Crosby, so much the better.
The media has needs. Questions need to be answered. Television and radio reporters need sound bites.
Hockey players tend to be humble and quiet. If a team does not have players who can speak comfortably with the lights on, it creates a void and the media has to come to its own conclusions about the team and it may be wrong.
When a team has players who can communicate, it usually lessens outside speculation.