Nothing beats the NHL playoffs

Sports Editor and Sports Editor

Sitting on my couch Wednesday night with my die-hard Washington Capitals fan of a roommate gave me an epiphany of sorts.

It was something I had always known, so maybe an epiphany isn’t the correct word. But every April it’s something that always pops back into my mind.

There is nothing better than the NHL playoffs, specifically game sevens.

I strongly pondered that thought as I watched him run out the front door screaming in joy after a Joel Ward overtime goal gave the Capitals a victory against Boston in game seven, sending them to the second round of the playoffs. I was a little bit jealous, because I haven’t gotten to personally enjoy my team being in the playoffs for the past four years. So naturally, my main focus has been on the draft and free agency, playing personal general manager in my head.

In case you were wondering, GM Ryan is desperately hoping Zach Parise ends up in Dallas. Yep, insert favorite “not a hockey atmosphere, bad team” joke here.

But this year has been a little different for me. I have closely followed the NHL playoffs this year. Mostly because I was amped for the first round Flyers-Penguins series and just sort of got caught up in everything from there. Yes, that series didn’t disappoint, but neither have any of the other series.

The top seed in the Western Conference has been eliminated by a team in Southern California. The No. 2 seed, and defending Stanley Cup Champion, in the East has been eliminated. The top seed in the Eastern Conference was taken to seven games.

And that, right there, is why the NHL playoffs is better than that of any other professional sports. The parity is so great. The passion is even greater.

Just look at it. In the NBA, you could probably pick the four teams that will be in the conference finals right now. In the NHL, the favorites to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in each conference are already eliminated.

In the NFL, each round is only one-and-done. Bounty scandal aside, there isn’t a chance for animosity to build in each series. I won’t argue against the Super Bowl being the greatest spectacle in American sports, but the playoffs as a whole are so short. It seems like once they start, they’re finished.

And MLB, I love baseball as much as anyone, but after 162 games in the regular season, I just can’t get into the playoffs unless my team is still alive. The league did well to pique interest with the Wild Card play-in game, but by the time October comes around my focus has moved to college football and hockey.

None of these are the case with the NHL. Some will (and have) argue that the playoffs take too long; they last almost two months, or the same length as the NBA’s postseason.

The difference is playoff hockey is the most intense thing you will ever watch. The players literally give it their all on every shift. I have heard people who don’t watch a lick of regular season hockey say that the NHL playoffs is their favorite thing to watch. That is why.

And then there is the concept of the “golden goal.” That doesn’t exist in basketball or baseball, where if a period/inning starts, it finishes. In hockey, a game can finish at any second. Much like it did Wednesday night in the Caps-Bruins game, when a Boston-attempted dump-in was blocked, and then taken the other way for the game winner. That play developed and finished in about seven seconds.

There is a similar concept in football too, such as when Tim Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard touchdown to beat Pittsburgh this year in the Wild Card round. Yes, in football, any play can be the last play. But unlike in hockey, you know when each play is going to happen, due to the start-and-stop nature of the game. In hockey, that play can happen at any time.

If you haven’t ever given playoff hockey a chance, I highly recommend you give it one this year. Maybe you’ll see something you like.