Raffi Torres hit Brent Seabrook with a controversial hit in game three of the series between the Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks.  Seabrook hasn’t played since.  However, the hit seems to have awaken the Blackhawks.  They’ve outscored the Canucks 12-2 in the two games following the hit, getting themselves back into a series that they were previously trailing 3-0.

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews admitted that the hit served to motivate the defending Stanley Cup champions:

“For sure, for sure,” Jonathan Toews said. “It kind of added insult to injury when we didn’t get the decision (there was no suspension) we wanted. We don’t feel like he should have been in the game (Tuesday).

“You’re going to lay down and let that team take four games in a row on you, especially when they pull stunts like that. We went out there and played for every single guy, including (Seabrook). We showed what we can do when we have that motivation.”

When Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both went down with injuries, many people wrote the Pittsburgh Penguins off.  To the surprise of almost everyone who follows the game, the Penguins managed to play even better without their two star centers.  They ended this season with more points than they recorded last season when both of their superstars were in the line-up and they are remaining competitive in the playoffs.

Penguins forward Mike Rupp said that the team used the injuries to Crosby and Malkin, and the general consensus that the Penguins would flounder without their stars, as motivation to work harder:

“Honestly, there was a bit of a chip on our shoulders back when our big guys got hurt,” Rupp said. “The hockey media across North America questioned us. When you read or hear that we’re ‘hanging on’ until those guys come back, you take that personally. I mean, we’re obviously a better team with Sidney and Evgeni in the lineup. But we’re also a good team without those guys.”

He thumped his thumb on his chest.

“I deserve to be here. I deserve to be in the NHL. So does every guy on this team. We’ve done our work. This was our opportunity to show that we’re still the Pittsburgh Penguins. I didn’t want to wait for help. I wanted to get it done.”

The NHL season is long and grueling.  It can be tough to work your hardest and play your best every single night.  That’s exactly why players and teams need to use moments like the Torres hit or the Crosby injury to inspire themselves to work harder.

Yes, the Stanley Cup is a great motivator, but sometimes it’s not enough.  During the regular season or the early rounds of the playoffs, the Cup can seem too far away to provide enough motivation.  That’s why teams use more recent moments to inspire them.

That’s why you hear the term “bulletin board material” so often.  Good coaches take moments like the Torres hit and turn them into a point that the team can rally around.  Good captains enforce that point.  Having a singular focus and a strong desire to win can really unite a team.  United teams are almost always more successful than ones that are divided.

Earlier today Jonathan Willis mentioned that teams win and lose together.  That’s definitely true.  Teams that work together and stand up for one another are stronger than fractured organizations.  Having a recent event that can cause every person in a locker room to stand up and say “We need to win because of that moment” is a great way to bring a team together.

The Chicago Blackhawks may not defeat the Vancouver Canucks and the Pittsburgh Penguins may never be as successful without Crosby and Malkin as they were with those players, but those two teams can have their pride and their unity thanks to their recent efforts.

It’s no surprise that these two teams are the last two teams to win the Stanley Cup.  Pride and unity are two of the key building blocks to success.