There is puck stuff in there somewhere, too.
Last year's game made skating feel great and grounded. Making plays, defensively or offensively, feels largely about positioning and finesse, almost like a ballroom dance. As hardcore as hockey is, they're ice skating -- and doing so incredibly well -- so making skating such a focus and making it feel great is fantastic.
Adding the collision physics to this previously implemented system means the latter doesn't fall flat when players collide, ruining the effect. Backwards skating feels a bit smoother, too, as well as defensive pivots and defender AI.
L1 now lets you do a one button deke in the direction you're skate, while L2 does a spin in the direction you're skating. With proper timing, you can avoid the big, physics hits and hopefully break away for a goal.
The fights now feature real time damage that you can see on players face. More importantly, they're in third person and don't break your immersion when fights begin. Good hits feel absolutely devastating without feeling overblown, which is impressive. Additionally, you can grab, evade, and blend crosses and uppercuts. Not only did I win the game 2-1, but I won fights 3-0.
Otherwise, the game plays as fabulously as it always does. The game I played was 0-0 well towards the end as both of us played sloppily and took penalties while in conversation. After I sniped a last minute goal, though, things went tense and we both went silent and soon the game was an intense 1-1 that I ended with a 30 seconds left spin move and sneaky goal. As tense and fun as ever.