Seven players willing to put their bodies on the line
|Bill Smith / Chicago Blackhawks|
Let's face it: Hockey can be a painful game to play. Players get crunched by opponents, whacked by sticks and nailed by flying pucks. But some are more willing than others to lay their bodies on the line, either to help their team put the puck in the net or keep it out of their own.
It takes a special kind of player to be willing to put his body on the line for his team on a regular basis. Here are some NHL players for whom yelling "ouch" is an everyday occurrence.
Dan Girardi, New York Rangers -- Girardi said he plans to wear a visor this season after seeing fellow Rangers defenseman Marc Staal take a deflected shot in the eye late last season. Given Girardi's willingness to use his body to stop pucks and opponents, it's amazing he's lasted this long without one.
Girardi led the NHL in blocked shots this past season and has been in the top six in each of the past four seasons, a span in which he's missed a total of four games. Add that to an average of just under 191 hits per season (including a pro-rated 179 for 2012-13) for those four seasons and you get a player who collects a lot of bruises.
Luke Schenn, Philadelphia Flyers -- The older of the two Schenn brothers has been a busy hitter throughout his NHL career, ranking first among defensemen in hits in each of the past three seasons and tying for third in the League in 2012-13 with 187. He was also in the top 15 in blocked shots with 102; that's 20 more than the next-highest total on the Flyers, who acquired him from the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer.
Dennis Seidenberg, Boston Bruins -- Seidenberg's willingness to do a lot of the dirty work involved in winning often gets overshadowed on a team that's gone to the Stanley Cup Final twice in the past three years, but he's a big reason for the Bruins' run of success. Seidenberg was tops among Boston defensemen last season with 115 hits and was first on the team with 115 blocked shots. He's had at least 150 hits and 150 blocked shots in each of the past three full seasons, and he led the NHL in blocks in 2009-10.
Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks -- The defending Stanley Cup champs prefer to dominate opponents with puck possession, meaning they don't pile up big numbers of hits and blocked shots. That doesn't mean they lack a physical presence. Seabrook was one of only seven players to reach triple figures in both hits and blocked shots last season, and he's averaged more than 200 hits and 145 blocks in each of the past four full seasons.
Ladislav Smid, Edmonton Oilers -- Smid has spent his seven seasons in the NHL giving up his body for the Oilers, though his efforts have often been overlooked because of his team's struggles. He was the only player in the League last season to finish in the top 15 in hits (151) and blocked shots (109), and that came after a season in which he piled up 186 hits and was seventh in the NHL with 184 blocks.
Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim Ducks -- Beauchemin had a career year for the Ducks in 2012-13, earning a Second-Team All-Star berth -- and while his offensive contribution (0.50 points per game) was part of the reason, his willingness to sacrifice his body played a major role as well. Beauchemin blocked 111 shots in 48 games, a number that would nearly match his total of 194 from 2011-12 projected over a full season. He's been among the top-10 in blocked shots in each of the past three seasons while posting triple figures in hits in each of the past three full seasons.
Matt Martin, New York Islanders -- The Islanders don't have the reputation of being one of the NHL's more physical teams, but opponents know they have to keep their heads up when Martin is on the ice. The 24-year-old forward led the League in hits last season with 234 after setting an NHL record with 374 in 2011-12. Despite banging bodies at every opportunity, Martin did not miss a game in either of the past two seasons. Ironically, one of his linemates this season could be Cal Clutterbuck, who preceded Martin as the NHL leader in hits from 2008-09 through 2010-11 while playing for the Minnesota Wild; they traded him to the Islanders in June.