Hitting is one of the most important, popular and polarizing components of hockey. With the speed and strength of NHL players, it's arguably the hardest-hitting sports league in the world. Watch a hockey game between rivals such as the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks with the uninitiated and prepare to be pummeled with the question "but really, they're allowed to just...hit each other like that?"
Yes. Yes they are allowed to just hit each other like that. Awesome, isn't it?
Big hits can turn the tide of games just like timely goals can—and depending on the circumstance, a physical shift by a role player can turn an entire playoff series around. Just being able to set the tempo by playing the body and wearing the opposition down can make less talented teams suddenly appear immortal.
Hitting is a remarkably important part of the game that some players are just better at than others. Last year during the Calder Trophy race, people brought up the physical and punishing nature of Gabriel Landeskog's game just as often as they brought up the goals and helpers.
Some of the best captains in hockey are viewed as such due to their willingness to engage in and lead by physical play. Would Jarome Iginla be as beloved among the Calgary Flames faithful if he didn't sacrifice his body when needed? Would he be considered among the best active captains in the game right now if he didn't drop the gloves when the time was right and didn't land a big hit now and again?
The saying goes that your best players have to be your best players. While that tends to be true, to win games and be successful in the playoffs a team's most physical players must also be the most physically imposing guys out on the ice.
If a player gets lit up once or twice crossing the blue line during a game or early part of a series, you can bet your NHL GameCenter subscription that that guy will have his head on a swivel for quite some time thereafter.
So which players on each team are the best at bringing a physical component to the ice on a nightly basis?