Play Your Best This Postseason with Dave Langevin
Dave Langevin knows what it takes to play in big games. After all, he was a stalwart defenseman for the New York Islanders during their dynasty in the early 1980s, when they captured four Stanley Cups in a row.
Langevin, a U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer and former Minnesota North Star, runs the Defenseman’s Edge Hockey School. He has worked with Edina’s state high school championship teams and NCAA Division I-bound players. Here are some of his tips for being at one’s best during the postseason:
“One of the biggest things I try to do is use the regular season for the playoffs, getting as many kids involved in pressure situations,” Langevin said. “The whole season is set up for the playoffs. … Make every game important.”
Often, he added, teams rely too heavily on their top lines to perform when the pressure’s on. Others need to experience those situations, too, so they can be ready if and when they’re needed.
“It’s hard because everybody wants to win, but the kids on the second, third, and fourth line want to win, too,” he said. “Is it about winning or is it about developing players?”
When the pressure’s on, some players start to veer away from their game. Some try to do too much. That often doesn’t end well.
“Key on what you’re best at,” Langevin said. “Everybody tries to do more when there’s pressure. Everybody wants to be a hero. Everybody wants to get that overtime goal. Our philosophy was: It doesn’t matter who gets it—as long as somebody does. We wouldn’t have won the Stanley Cup if our third and fourth lines weren’t good."
Everybody wants to be a hero. Everybody wants to get that overtime goal. Our philosophy was: It doesn’t matter who gets it—as long as somebody does.
When you start to look ahead toward the playoffs, whether it’s Districts or Regionals, the State Tournament or the Stanley Cup, it can be a little daunting. Make the task more manageable.
“I’m not going to say I was never nervous, but if you break things down into smaller pieces, it’s not so overwhelming,” he said, noting the potential of playing as many as 28 games to clinch an NHL championship. “What we’d do at the beginning of the playoffs was break it down into something players could handle.”
Use warm-ups to prepare for the first shift and the first period. Use the first game to prepare for the next game, not the entire bracket.
“The only thing you have control over is the period you’re in or the shift you’re in,” Langevin said. “One game at a time, take care of business and go on to the next.”