Vancouver Canucks’ Maxim Lapierre throws down Mark Olver of the Colorado Avalanche during NHL action at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on March 28, 2012.
Photograph by: Rich Lam, Getty Images
Max Lapierre is the constant target of verbal brickbats from his teammates because of his propensity to sleep during the season.
Four-hour naps are not uncommon in the afternoon on many days, but he insists it has a purpose and it pays off this time of year when often some guys are winding down physically.
That’s because when the NHL playoffs start, traditionally Lapierre becomes a different player, stepping up every level of his game. Although this year he may have started a little earlier when he was thrown into the top two lines on occasion due to Daniel Sedin’s injury. He’s been in playoff mode for a while already.
“The guys give it to me all the time about my naps but this is the time of year that gets me going, this is where the adrenalin takes me, this is the time of year I’m thinking about all the time,” says Lapierre, whose role was fourth line centre Monday and winger to Ryan Kesler and David Booth Tuesday.
“This is the time when one hit on the boards is as loud in the building as if you scored a goal. It’s the time when all the little things are noticed and magnified — maybe that’s why I get noticed a little bit more than normal.”
Lapierre’s ability to kick it up so high was one of the most perceptible changes in this team last year on their march to Game 7 of the final.
Where during the regular season he pushes people when he approaches, in the playoffs he makes big hits. Everything he does on the ice is done with more commitment and determination, even his ability to become aggravating, although Vancouver management has asked him to tone down that act overall based on what he once did in Montreal.
In one sense he’s the perfect employee for a quality team like Vancouver. He plays humdrum most of the season, which keeps his salary down to a modest one schmil by today’s standards — but then when the games count for the money going into the owner’s pocket, suddenly his play takes wings, although his agent doubtless plays up that aspect of his game to team officials when they talk money.
Obviously one would strive to play with that intensity all season, but it’s simply impossible to do that for 110 games.
“You try to do that all season and you talk about trying to do that, but it’s a long season and on the ice many times you’re scared to hit somebody from behind or hurt yourself, even. But in the playoffs, it’s the time you must try to go through the wall of any adversity.
“I’ve always been that way, in minor hockey and then in Hamilton when we won the Calder Trophy. I’ve been able to lift my game. For some reason it’s always been there for me.
“My parents always worked hard for everything they had and maybe that’s where it comes from. My dad was a mailman and my mother a real estate agent and I can remember when I was in minor hockey my mother had a lot of jobs because hockey, in midget especially, was very expensive and that kind of carries over. They set a great example and you pick that up from them.”
“Max is one of those guys who can focus on the fact that at this time of year everything matters,” says Manny Malhotra.
“He’s like that on the ice and in the room. We see it in here as well. You put in all the training on and off the ice, go through 82 games and now you get to the point where you can try to win what you’ve always dreamt of winning.
“It really is the time to be a hockey player, the time all players want to be part of. It’s not just something we say.”
Lapierre says he has no fear that one day when the playoffs start and he steps on the gas there will be nothing there.
“That’s not going to happen because I’m passionate about this. I was that kid out playing road hockey dreaming about being in this position.
“I was the kid looking like an idiot alone in the street holding up the Stanley Cup. It matters to me.”
He’ll look mighty good to Canucks fans if he’s holding up the real thing in June.
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