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Gregg Sutch's Blog: An insider's look at preparing for the junior playoffs

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The playoffs are deemed to be the most exciting and pressing time of the year – and it truly is. The games are much more intense and each win is a team bonding moment.

Each victory brings the whole organization together, not to mention the fans. Once the Mississauga St. Mike’s Majors’ playoffs start, we’re going to be feeling good. Despite a few nagging injuries some of the boys may have and the fatigue of a long, hard season, it’s pure adrenaline that makes you go now. It’s the passion of playing the game you love and the excitement that rubs off on you.

Another huge factor in making you feel good at this time of year is really checking into your habits; watching what you eat and when you eat it, watching your sleep schedule and getting the rest when you can. As a collective group, I get the impression the boys are excited to make a serious run. The record-setting season we completed was one thing, but what really matters is how you perform in the playoffs.

The post-season draws the line between good players and great players, good teams and great teams. Down the stretch we were inconsistent, but we finished the season on a high note in a playoff-tempo game against the Niagara IceDogs. It felt like the team was turning around at the right time and confidence was in the air after our gutsy win.

When we open the first round series with the Peterborough Petes, it’s safe to say we’re going to be full of confidence, adrenaline, and excitement.

On top of the Majors-Petes series, there are a lot of other exciting matchups in the league. To avoid upsetting any of my buddies around the league, I won’t make any predictions, but I will say I’m excited to see what takes place between Plymouth and Sault Ste. Marie because this could potentially set up a great playoff match between Plymouth and Windsor; a showdown between Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall, who tied in the scoring race.

Another intriguing playoff series is the Guelph-London showdown. Guelph is a team that struggled for much of the season, but has really turned it on in recent weeks and London is a strong club. This series has the potential for an upset, but it’ll come down to who wants it most.

I believe the Brampton-Kingston series will be a tight one. This is a feel-good story for both teams because Kingston has improved drastically in the past couple seasons and found itself in the playoffs this year. Brampton didn’t have a whole lot to work with this year after the departures of key players such as Matt Duchene, Evgeny Grachev and Cody Hodgson, who was out for the majority of the season until recently. However, Brampton became an extremely hard-working team and battled to a playoff spot. Whoever loses this series should still be proud of their season.

As for insights on the other matchups, it really comes down to hunger. The team that puts its bodies on the line, sacrifices the most, has players who give themselves over to the team and has each player buying into the end-goal will come out on the top. The post-season isn’t about the best team on paper, it’s about the biggest hearts.

As a player, getting mentally prepared for the playoffs isn’t much different than a regular season game with the exception of being prepared to face adversity. Each team faces adversity in the playoffs, whether in the first round or the final. A player needs to be able to dig in deeper to overcome the bumps in the road.

The playoffs are a grind, so a player needs to find the mental energy to keep going and keep pushing. However, a player must remember it’s still the same game – nothing has changed. There are still two bluelines, a red line, two nets and one puck. The only difference is the increased intensity, so you must elevate your game.

Personally, I don't change my routine at all. I’ll still take my pre-game naps before games, get dressed the same way and keep everything in the same order. I think once you start to tinker with your game for the playoffs it can start to mentally weigh on you. The pressure is already immense, so if you make it seem bigger than what it already is, you’re going to drown yourself in the pressure.

Despite the fact you’re playing the same team four to seven times in a row, the mental preparation should remain the same. If you get deep into the series and things get heated between you and another player, you can’t think about just trying to get even with that guy because it can throw you off your game.

Winning the team battle will provide greater satisfaction. The playoffs are the definition of a team battle from start to finish.

Right winger Gregg Sutch is in his second year in the Ontario League after having been traded over the summer to Mississauga from Sarnia. The 17-year-old native of Newmarket, Ont., is highly touted for the 2010 NHL draft. He will blog throughout the season for Read Sutch's other blogs HERE.


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