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Kevin Bieksa pummels a frustrated Patrick Marleau.
The playoffs are a war of attrition, and over a seven-game series, hits can take their toll.
Whether by injuring a player, sapping their energy or just making them hesitate to go into the traffic areas, hitting is a far more effective tactic in the playoffs when you face the same team night after night.
Being physical and not passing up the opportunity to throw a hit can also throw the opposing team off its game as it tries to retaliate and deviate from their game plan.
The Vancouver Canucks aren't noted as a particularly tough or physical team in the regular season, but they find another gear when the playoffs start.
In 2010-11, they averaged only 21.84 hits per game in the regular season, 20th overall in the NHL. In the playoffs, they turned that up by landing 32.24 hits per game, outhitting the opposing team in each of the series they played that spring.
The Canucks finished with 856 playoff hits, far ahead of the next highest team, as the Boston Bruins only landed 673 hits. (Although it is also important to note that a Milan Lucic or Zdeno Chara hit tends to be more impactful than an Alex Burrows or Ryan Kesler hit.)
In 2011-12, the Canucks averaged 22.27 hits per game, good for 18th in the NHL. In their first-round loss to the L.A. Kings, the Canucks still managed to bump that up to 31.6 hits per game in the playoffs.
So far in 2012-13, the Canucks averaged 21.25 hits per game, placing them 23rd in the NHL.
I have faith that they will once again find that second gear in the playoffs and punish their opponents with relentless forechecking and heavy hits. In their last meaningful game, a 3-1 victory over Chicago, the Canucks outhit the Blackhawks 37-23.