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Stevens Still A Force - ESPN

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11-26-2003, 05:57 PM
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Stevens Still A Force - ESPN

http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/column...ian&id=1671688

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Stevens Still A Force
By Brian Engblom
Special to ESPN.com
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Freight train coming ...
Stevens always has had an uncanny ability to land open-ice body checks. I still remember the feeling of a force howling down to my left. Out of nowhere, with no warning, Stevens would barrel in like a freight train.

I think he actually got a piece of me a couple of times. I'm not sure either one of us ever knew when he was coming, and it shocked me at first, but eventually, I became accustomed to the unexpected, welcome surprise.

Twenty-two years later, Stevens continues to be regarded as the most fearsome open-ice hitters in the game. Like a 50-goal scorer, pure hitting is a lost art that's impossible to teach. Sure, players can develop mechanics and work on technique, but certain qualities are dependant on natural instinct and pure strength.

Stevens possesses both the skills and physique to assure he never comes out in second place. My fellow ESPN analyst Bill Clement said it best when he noted that when Stevens comes across the ice and sees the play funnel into the zone, he's like a fighter pilot. Once his radar locks in, he gets tone on you, and he doesn't miss.

And it's not as if he's targeting the smaller or slower opponents. Two hits that come to mind: His collision with Eric Lindros, who at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds can't be confused with tiny, during the 2000 Eastern Conference final and the hit he laid on Paul Kariya during last year's Stanley Cup final. Kariya is one of the NHL's fastest and shiftiest players; guys like him have radar, so for Stevens' to catch him with his head down was unbelievable.
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11-26-2003, 05:58 PM
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Physical force ...
Stevens is fanatical about physical conditioning; he's a block of granite. Recently, I asked him how it's possible that he's stronger than ever after playing so many years of professional hockey. He told me that he eliminates milk products and sugar from his diet, and works out every day -- even in the offseason. And he added that people better "watch out" on the rare day he misses a workout because he'll be in a bad mood.

That superior strength contributes to his tremendous offensive shot. Many people forget that in his early years Stevens saw a good amount of ice time as a forward, especially on the power play because he was absolutely immovable from the front of the net. He'd get in there and screen, with the hands, speed and skills to make plays. There's nothing he couldn't do.

Had it not been for his dedication to the defensive side of the game, it's likely Stevens would have scored even more goals. But rather than being up on the ice, looking for points, he'd pull back and play both ends.

His ability to handle the puck and pass as well as he can read plays sets him apart from other great players in the league. These days, because of the trap and similar tactics, many young defensemen know their own area of the ice, but they can't read everything going on. Stevens has the entire ice covered because he sees things more quickly than many of his teammates do.
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11-26-2003, 06:03 PM
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NJ_Devil_Boy
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Interesting Read.

h**p://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=1671933

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