Playoff hockey is a completely different animal than the regular season. The physicality is ratcheted up, the aggression is sky-high and there are no shortage of altercations. Heading into their first-round matchup against Chicago, the Checkers seemed to be lacking a piece in that vein.
Trying to find his way into the lineup, Brendan Woods saw his chance.
“That’s my game,” he said. “I like to stir it up after the whistle, I like to finish my checks and I don’t like to take crap from anybody.”
It was a tough year for the fourth-year pro, as an early injury sidelined him for four months. Once healthy, Woods then had to carve his way into a consistent spot on a forward group that had swelled with talent throughout the year.
Woods would appear in three games during the playoff series, impacting the scoresheet with a goal and eight penalty minutes, but it was his intensity that seemed to set the tone for his team.
“I thought that Woodsy was unbelievable down the stretch, playing with such a chip on his shoulder,” said Kyle Hagel. “I think the second game against Chicago, they won that game in a close one but Woodsy really brought the pushback. It seemed to me that there was a clear message from their coach to the team after the 4-0 loss the first game that they had to come out and be chippier. They were starting scrums after every whistle, they were shooting the puck after every whistle. Then Woodsy had that one where he was offside by like seven feet and still blasted a slap shot and started a scrum. I loved it.”
For Woods, it was simply a matter of finding a way in.
“You’re getting a paycheck, you’ve got to earn it,” he said. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get me in the lineup and win.”
The injury put a damper on his point total this season after combining for 50 points in the previous two campaigns, but Woods remained a threat through and through this season, especially thriving on an electric atmosphere at Bojangles’ Coliseum.
“It’s huge,” said Woods of the fans’ impact on him and the team. “To be able to have loud crowds and build that fan base was good for us.”
Whether it was a clutch goal with a raucous celebration to go with it or a crunching hit, Woods was certainly able to leave a mark when he was on the ice. But perhaps more importantly, he was able to pitch in even during the tough times when he found himself an odd man out.
“When I played I think I brought everything I could, brought energy that the team didn’t have, but sometimes in a series you just need scoring,” said Woods. “[The coaching staff] has a job to do too and they’ve got to put the best lineup out there for our team. You’ve got to respect their decision. They told us to be good teammates and be good around the room and that’s what I tried to do.”