I’ll admit this from the jump: I do not follow hockey as closely as other sports.
Hell I follow NASCAR more so than hockey, so I won’t pretend to be a know-it-all expert of the sport. In fact, I consider myself more of a casual hockey fan.
Though being originally from Brooklyn, NY mandates that I become a New York Rangers fan (who gives a shit about the Islanders?) and keep an eye on them every now and then, I became a Carolina Hurricanes fan (of sorts) while living in Raleigh, NC. But I’m so detached from the sport I’d usually settle for check-ins a month or two at a time. Plus it doesn’t help that the Canes suck royally.
Having said that, one thing is for certain: I love the NHL playoffs.
Hockey is hands-down the most grueling sport in the world. Three 20 minute periods. Constant movement to go with vicious checking. No wonder coaches have to utilize three to four lines per game.
And if you think the regular season is grueling, check out the NHL’s postseason. It’s not for the faint of heart.
There is a sense of urgency that the postseasons in other pro sports cannot match.
The intensity goes up several notches. The physicality would make a grown man suck his thumb and quiver. And the drama would keep even the casual sports fans on the edge of their seats.
I mean what other pro sport could say that all of its opening round playoff series, all the way to the top seed going against the lowest seed, are toss ups?
Top seeds are upset in the opening rounds more than a few times. In 2012, the Los Angeles Kings spanked the top-seed Vancouver Canucks 4-1 – and went on to win the Stanley Cup! In 2010, the perennially underachieving Washington Capitals were upset by the Montreal Canadiens. The Anaheim Ducks took out the San Jose Sharks in the opening round in 2009. Don’t forget about the top-seed Detroit Red Wings falling to the Edmonton Oilers (and eventual Western Conference champs) in the first round in 2006.
So y’all get the point.
And the NHL gets it right by re-seeding its teams based on the results of the first round (note: the NFL is the other league that does this). As late as the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, Pittsburgh and Chicago (the conferences top seeds) played the 7-seeds after the 2-seeds were upset. If it were the NBA playoffs, the 3-seeds would play the 7-seeds and have an unfair advantage over the top seed.
And it’s never guaranteed that the most expensive or even most talented team always comes away with the Stanley Cup. Check out some of the teams I mentioned a couple of paragraphs above. As ESPN’s NHL honcho Barry Melrose likes to say: one cannot simply buy the Stanley Cup, ya gotta earn it.
Again, I’m only a casual hockey fan at best. However, I am going to tune into the Stanley Cup playoffs and enjoy every minute of it.
Oh one more thing, my money is on the afore-dissed Islanders. There is something about a team playing its last ever season in a dilapidated arena (Nassau Coliseum) and wanting to go out with a bang.
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