If you’re not watching the 2011 NHL Playoffs you are missing out on the best postseason of any sport, college or professional. Now I’m a little biased as hockey is my favorite sport but I’m a big fan of all major sports. I watch the playoffs from all of them and I don’t think its close! You don’t get the same level of excitement from the NBA, MLB or the NFL! The NCAA Basketball Tournament might be close!
There’s been a 4 goal comeback, series comebacks, 13 overtime games (8 nights in a row with an overtime game), 8 Shutouts, 1 sweep, more hitting (brutal hits) resulting in suspensions, highlight goals, highlight saves and now we have 4 game sevens!!!
Parity! Throw out the regular season records! Wipe the slate clean! Everyone’s even. Home ice advantage? What home ice advantage! It doesn’t matter if its #1 vs #8 or #4 vs #5. Any team can beat any other team at any time.*
*Except the New York Rangers, apparently!
Intensity! The Intensity and competition in the playoffs goes up tenfold! I’m not even sure that describes it accurately enough. If you took the entire 82 game regular season and packed it into one game, you might get the intensity of the playoffs. Maybe! Players are giving 110% every second they are on the ice. There’s no time to rest or take it easy for a shift, even when your team is up by 4 goals!
Rivalries! Rivalries escalate and are born in the playoffs! There’s nothing like at least 4 straight games with an opponent to get a rivalry going! The Vancouver/Chicago rivalry was pretty nonexistent until three years ago when the Blackhawks knocked the Canucks out of the playoffs two years in a row. Vancouver squeaked by the Blackhawks last night with a Game Seven Overtime victory. In the Eastern Conference you have a rivalry that’s been going on since 1924! It’s definitely still alive and well and another chapter will be decided with Game Seven tonight!
Physical Play! There’s more physical play in the playoffs as every player knows they have to give more to win in the postseason! This is why you see guys who aren’t usually very physical throwing hits and being physical. Unfortunately, there’s more headhunting and a lackofrespect in a lot of the physical play. The concept of physical play is to hit a player as hard as you can so the next time they get the puck, they panic a little bit and make a bad play. It’s not to injure a player and take him out of the game.
Playing Injured! Guys play injured no matter how injured they are. They put their team before their own well-being! Trainers do whatever they can to get players back on the ice. Cortisone shots, potassium, Sudafed, ibuprofen, heat pack, cold packs and whatever else can get you back on the ice, within the rules of course!
Sudden-Death Overtime! Nothing beats sudden death overtime! There’s nothing like it in any other sport! “But the NFL has sudden death overtime!” Really? It’s not even close to the same thing! Drop the puck and play hockey! Shoot the puck and shoot it often because anything can happen in overtime!
Unsung Heroes! With teams game-planning against their opponents best players, it makes it more difficult for the star players to play a big role in a given series. This allows the somewhat unknown role players to emerge! Who heard of Ben Smith before he scored a game-winning goal in Game 6 against Vancouver in his 13th game in the NHL? Role players become X-factors in the playoffs and can be a big part in determining who wins a series.
Goaltending! This might be the biggest and most important position in deciding who wins a series and ultimately, the Stanley Cup! A goaltender can get in a zone and lead a team all the way to the Cup! We see it every year and some goalies come out of nowhere to give their teams a chance to win every night! Look at Antti Niemi and Jaroslav Halak last year, Cam Ward and Dwayne Roloson* in ’06 and Patrick Roy in 1986 just to name a few!
*Roloson and Fernandez were a big part of the run by the Minnesota Wild in ’03. Had to get my Wild in there even if they might not belong in a current playoff column, since they’ve missed the playoffs for three years in a row now! GO WILD! TheBrownFox will get it done!
The Stanley Cup! All of this so they can Raise Stanley! Lord Stanley’s Cup! The Cup! The Holy Grail! It’s the ultimate goal and the Greatest Trophy in Sports! You never hear about the trophy for the NBA, NFL or Major League Baseball because they all want the ring. I don’t think they care about the trophy because their trophies are all pretty lame! You can’t drink from them and why would you want a day with those trophies! The NHL even calls their playoffs the “Stanley Cup” playoffs and the “Stanley Cup” Finals! It’s a multipurpose trophy! You can drink out of it, eat out of it, bathe babies in it, use it as a paper weight, a food tray, for storage, rescue cats with it, it makes a great wingman, the possibilities are endless! Stanley has partied more than anyone I know. No wonder everybody wants to hang out with Stan!
Do you agree that the NHL has the best postseason? What’s been your favorite part so far?