Beast — from Merriam-Webster dictionary — something formidably difficult to control or deal with.
Beast — from the Urban dictionary — a person who is very good at something.
Beast Mode — also from Urban dictionary — superhuman state of being, in which animal instinct takes over mind and body.
For those who don’t watch football or don’t recognize the name Marshawn Lynch, this might be foreign terminology. But thanks to those definitions, everybody should get the drift and be on the same page now.
As it relates to hockey — and especially playoff hockey — several players transform into beasts, or enter beast mode, every spring. It is crucial to a team’s success, the more beasts, the better its chances of hoisting the Stanley Cup.
From one round to the next — the first round to the second, in this case — the beasts may change, but their genetic makeup remains much the same. Their faces will certainly get hairier — playoff beards are all the rage — and their snarl level will inevitably rise. They will weed out the weak in this survival of the fittest competition. Not to make hockey players sound like a bunch of Neanderthals on skates, but the post-season is a throwback to primeval times.
With 16 teams waging 8 head-to-head battles in the opening round, it was difficult to single out just 5 warriors — the 5 biggest beasts — but with each passing round, that task becomes less daunting and more obvious. So now through the second round — 8 teams over 4 series, narrowed down to the final four — some of these will be self-explanatory as soon as you see the name. The order in which they are listed, however, may be subject to much debate in the comments section below.
Patrick Kane (F Chicago)
Over the last 5 postseasons, Patrick Kane has 16 multipoint games, most in the NHL. pic.twitter.com/NwmAQQA9NY
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 8, 2015
Projected to still be on the sidelines — potentially returning for the third round — Kane made a miraculous recovery from his broken collarbone to suit up for Chicago’s playoff opener and hasn’t skipped a beat as a dominant performer. He’s registered a point in all but one of Chicago’s 10 games so far and scored in every game of its second-round sweep over Minnesota, including two game-winning goals in that series. Jonathan Toews may be Captain Clutch and was arguably the biggest beast through the first round — leading the league in scoring between rounds — but Kane raised the bar in Round 2 and is now a frontrunner to win his second Conn Smythe Trophy in three years. Kane was playoff MVP in 2013 and also scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime in 2010. He’s a career point-per-game player in the playoffs — 104 points in 103 games — so, yeah, he meets the beast criteria. Bionic limb or not.
#Blackhawks Patrick Kane leads the NHL in playoff goal (44), assists (60) and points (104) since the start of 2008-09.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) May 8, 2015
Matt Beleskey (F Anaheim)
This guy broke a record belonging to Teemu Selanne, the biggest beast in franchise history. Beleskey scored a goal in every game against Calgary — 5 goals in 5 games — to surpass Selanne and Corey Perry, who had also previously scored in four consecutive playoff games. Selanne had accomplished the exact same feat — scoring in the first four games of a series — against Nashville in 2011, but Beleskey one-upped him by deflecting Francois Beauchemin’s point shot past Karri Ramo during Anaheim’s series-clinching win on home ice in Game 5. Bravo, Beleskey. Not bad for a 26-year-old former fourth-round pick who spent time in the AHL as recently as last season. This has been a big breakout campaign for Beleskey, who doubled his career high in goals during the regular season by scoring 22 times and has carried that hot hand over to the playoffs. That success will definitely bode well for him as a pending unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Included on Matt Beleskey's summer to-do list. pic.twitter.com/KtpQgcdivA
— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) May 11, 2015
Henrik Lundqvist (G N.Y. Rangers)
— theScore NHL (@theScoreNHL) May 15, 2015
This spot was reserved for whoever backstopped his team to victory in Game 7 after staging one of the best goaltender duels in recent memory — and possibly ever. Both Lundqvist and Washington’s Braden Holtby were worthy of beast status in this series and to this point in the playoffs. They had arguably been the two best netminders through two rounds and, even in a losing cause, Holtby most definitely deserves an honourable mention. Lundqvist has now won six straight Game 7s and has rallied his team from 3-1 deficits in the second round of playoffs in consecutive years, shutting the door on Sidney Crosby and company last year, then spoiling Alex Ovechkin’s so-called guarantee this time around. Add it all up and oddsmaker Bovada has made Lundqvist the Conn Smythe favourite heading into the conference finals.
.@HLundqvist30 won his NHL record 6th straight Game 7. His six Game 7 wins also tie him with Brodeur and Roy for the most in League history.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 14, 2015
Corey Crawford (G Chicago)
— Larry Hawley (@HawleySports) May 14, 2015
To steal a line from the classic comedy Dumb & Dumber, Crawford ‘totally redeemed himself’ in the second round against Minnesota. He rebounded from a rough first round against Nashville when a couple of shaky starts forced him to take a backseat to rookie Scott Darling. Now, after outshining Devan Dubnyk — the hottest goalie in hockey since the calendar flipped to 2015 — Crawford has a firm hold on the starting role as the Blackhawks head into the conference final against Anaheim. How good was he in Chicago’s sweep of Minnesota? Besides posting a 30-save shutout in Game 3, Crawford stopped at least that many pucks in every game, turning aside 124 of 131 total shots. His stats would have been even better had the Wild not scored two late desperation goals in the clincher. So how does Crawford match-up against Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen? Well, smart money is on the man with two Stanley Cup rings.
Corey Crawford is 8 wins from tying Tony Esposito's franchise record of 45 playoff wins.#Blackhawks are 8 wins from another Stanley Cup.
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 8, 2015
Corey Perry (F Anaheim)
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 11, 2015
Not to put too much bias towards the Western Conference, but how could you ignore this beast? Not only is Perry leading the league in playoff scoring, but he also scored the overtime winner that eliminated Calgary. This, after returning from an injury scare in the same game, when he appeared to be in serious pain following a knee-on-knee collision with Matt Stajan. Perry sucked it up and persevered, not unlike Kane has been doing for Chicago. You’d think whoever prevails in that upcoming series — Perry or Kane — could emerge as the favourite for the Conn Smythe. Of course, Perry will have his work cut out for him against the Blackhawks, who pose a much bigger challenge than the Flames or Winnipeg Jets. Nothing against those Canadian clubs, but Chicago is a completely different beast.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 15, 2015
Nikita Kucherov (F Tampa Bay) — That whole Triplets line was the difference in this series, with Kucherov stepping up in the biggest way with 6 goals in as many games, including the overtime winner to start the series and the opening goal of the decisive game. Tyler Johnson has been a beast all playoffs and he kept it going with his buzzer-beater to win Game 3, plus his series-opening goal to help the Lightning draw first blood. Ondrej Palat came on strong as well, scoring a nice power-play goal that stood up as the winner in the clincher. These guys are going to continue to be a handful, especially with Kucherov catching fire now.
Ryan McDonagh (D N.Y. Rangers) — Scored the overtime winner in Game 5, then absorbed a huge hit from Alex Ovechkin in Game 6, but returned to kill off a late penalty and help stave off elimination for the second straight game. McDonagh added another assist on the Game 7 equalizer that forced overtime and set the stage for Derek Stepan’s heroics. Led by example throughout and got the last laugh on Ovechkin, the opposing captain.
Ben Bishop (G Tampa Bay) — Putting together a very impressive post-season, with a .931 save percentage and 1.81 goals-against average through 13 games — second only to Lundqvist (.944, 1.60 in 12 GP) among the final-four starters. Besides the one stinker against Montreal — where Bishop was pulled after 3 goals in a 6-2 blowout — he’s been rock solid. And, for the record, he ain’t sitting on no horseshoe Monsieur Subban. This guy was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season and has been flashing that form throughout these playoffs.
Jakob Silfverberg (F Anaheim) — Most surprising name among the top-10 playoff scorers, he’s been a point machine thus far, now up to 11 points in 9 games, including 5 in as many games against Calgary. Silfverberg’s developed great chemistry with Ryan Kesler to give the Ducks a secondary scoring threat behind Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Their linemate, Patrick Maroon, is also looking more and more like a beast.
Larry Fisher is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.