The Playoffs of the NHL season 2021 have finally begun, after the strange Regular season, with fewer matches than usual, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. With the final goal being the Stanley Cup, the match between Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins was the first match of the Playoffs, with Craig Anderson as the great protagonist.
Never employed in the postseason of the past four years, the 39-year-old Capitals goalkeeper played a key role in his 3-2 victory at Over Time, taking over during the first half and blocking 21 of 22 shots thrown at him.
Nic Dowd was the other great protagonist of the challenge, with the winning goal at the Over Time. A very moment of glory.
The fitness of professional NHL players?
On the The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness we can read a very interesting article entitled: The relationship between age and fitness profiles in elite male ice hockey players, which explains very interesting aspects about the physical condition of the best athletes in this sport.
Below we can read an abstract: "Background: The present study investigated relationships between age, body composition and performance in elite male ice hockey players. Methods: 199 players performed off-ice tests (countermovement jump height (CMJ) and body composition) and on-ice tests (5-10-5 Pro Agility test, 30-m sprint test and the maximal Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Ice Hockey test (Yo-Yo IR1-IHMAX) for assessment of aerobic capacity.
Results: No overall correlations between age and performance were present except small-moderate positive associations between age and body- and muscle mass (r=0.24-0.30, P≤0.05). The youngest age group (YOU; 18-21 years) were 4-9% lighter than all other age groups and possessed 7% less muscle mass compared to the oldest players (OLD; 30-33 years) (P≤0.05), whereas no differences were present in body fat percentage.
OLD were 2-3% inferior to the second youngest (SEC; 22-25 years) and mid-age group (MID; 26-29 years) in sprint and agility performance in addition to a 6-10% lower CMJ height (P≤0.05). The younger age groups differed only by a 7 and 5% better CMJ performance in MID compared to YOU and SEC, respectively (P≤0.05).
In contrast, no differences were found in distance covered on the Yo-Yo IR1-IHmax. Conclusions: Only small-moderate associations between age and body composition were present unlike for the remaining performance parameters.
Nevertheless, a consistently lower high-intensity exercise performance was evident in the oldest- and a lower body weight in the youngest players, whereas aerobic capacity was similar. This suggests that capabilities related to size, strength and power are the most critical parameters differing between young and old ice hockey players."
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the regular season of NHL has been reduced to 56 games and began on January 13, 2021. Due to COVID-19 cross-border travel restrictions currently imposed by the Government of Canada, the league temporarily realigned for this season, putting all seven Canadian teams into one division.
The playoffs are then tentatively scheduled to run from May until July under a 16-team format with the top four teams from each division.