Every time the Blackhawks come up short, I hear the same thing: "They're not physical enough."
At least it's not the old refrain: "They need a tough guy."
The game has changed. This is not the pre-lockout NHL. Speed and skill rule. Having a physical presence is important. But the emphasis on hammering guys and asserting your will physically has diminished.
Take the Capitals game as an example. Three of the four goals the Blackhawks allowed involved breakdowns in puck possession or coverage. And when it comes to the winner scored by Mike Knuble, one hockey exec told me: "I'm surprised more guys don't do that. You can lean on him (in front of the net), but you can't push him out of the way (before the puck gets there) because it's a penalty."
How teams manage the puck and play positionally away from the puck have become bigger factors on a nightly basis.
All teams value hitting and the effect it can have. But it's harder to do. The game is so fast now, that if the player doesn't time it right, finishing a check can take him out of position, creating a scoring chance. Players have to pick their spots and execute.
Think Bryan Marchment.