For Lightning coach Guy Boucher, a player's most selfless act is blocking a shot.
Think of the "guts" it takes to put one's body in front of a 6-ounce puck traveling at about 100 mph, he said.
"That thing can break your face. It could break an arm. It can break an ankle. That's a weapon coming at you. It is the ultimate sign of paying the price," Boucher said.
If that is the case, Tampa Bay has made more than a down payment while gaining a spot in the Eastern Conference final against Boston.
The Lightning's 233 blocked shots are 29 more than any other playoff team.
Tampa Bay also has the top four blockers: defensemen Eric Brewer with 43, Mattias Ohlund with 36, and Brett Clark and Victor Hedman with 31 each.
Though Tampa Bay's playoff-high 54 times on the penalty kill certainly created more opportunities to block shots — the Lightning also allows an average of 35.5 shots, most of the remaining playoff teams — it doesn't change the key fundamental, Ohlund said.
"We do take pride in blocking shots, especially this time of year," he said. "It's about sacrificing. Usually, it's a good indication you're playing the game hard to do everything to win."
Blocking shots is nothing new for the Lightning. It had the eighth most during the regular season, and the effort went beyond defensemen. Center Nate Thompson was third among forwards with 81, and wing Marty St. Louis was the only player with at least 90 points (99) and 60 blocks (64).
That players picked up their effort in the postseason is no surprise, Boucher said.
"Our emphasis has always been playing playoff hockey, so it's not something new," he said. "It's something we emphasized all year long and have been so in their face about it. So that when the playoffs come, now they're used to it. They know about it.
"Plus, more is at stake. The guys have character. They'll do more."
Given the league's anti-obstruction rules, blocking shots is more important than ever.
Think about it, Boucher said:
"It's very difficult to box out a player now. Before, you could cross-check them. You could really hurt somebody, so no one would go (to the front of the net). With the new rules, you can't push that guy out anymore. Since that guy is going to screen your goalie anyway, let's make a wall and prevent the shots."
Ohlund said he tries not to leave his feet because if he misses a block or the opponent holds the puck, it is difficult to get back into position to play defense.
There also is a fine line between trying to block a shot and not screening the goalie.
"So if you're going to go down," Brewer said, "you don't want the puck to get through without the ability to recover."
As for the potential for injury, bigger, sturdier pads have lessened the chance. Still, St. Louis once showed a crack in his leg pad caused by a shot that also caused a shin bruise.
"Obviously, there are times (the puck) hits you where you don't enjoy it," Ohlund said. "But 90 percent of the time, it hits your pad."
The other 10 percent?
"You just face it," Hedman said.
"It all comes down to who is going to pay the price more. That's what we say to each other. We want to pay the price and win games, and blocking shots is a big part of that."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.