This year, the chief culprit is what some perceive to be overuse of one of the most gutsy plays in hockey: the shot block, in which the defender eliminates elite scoring chances by basically diving in front of a 4-inch-wide, 6-ounce rubber mallet rocketing inches off the ice at 90 miles per hour.
Though the New York Rangers epitomize this tactic, they got bounced by the Devils in the Eastern Conference finals. L.A., meanwhile, has perfected a jittery, block-ready defensive zone trap that gives New Jersey’s star forwards precious little wiggle room and makes most scoring chances a hope for the best – a pinball, instead of an actual skilled play.
Los Angeles blew past the Devils 4-0 in Game 3 on Monday, but previous matches had been low-scoring and even tedious. The first two games went to overtime, but there was little of the flow and go, run and gun that had dominated the playoffs' early rounds, in which every team with more than 100 points on the season was eliminated. Hence, the finals fell to teams that proved they could play defensive games studiously and consistently.