Stanley Cup Playoffs hockey smokes all other sports, hands down. Sure true sports fans love it all, the NFL, the NBA, MLB. But at the end of the day, there is nothing like playoff hockey in any other sport.
What is more intense that a game seven in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Think about the current Eastern Conference Finals. The New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning are all tied up at three games apiece. Friday night in Madison Square Garden, a winner will emerge and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Are you kidding me? These two teams have gone at it like titans, trading blows, momentum and determination every time they have hit the ice. And it all comes down to one game, 60 minutes to live to play again or to go home a loser. Yes, I’m planning to watch. How could you not?
What about the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks? Anaheim is up 3-2, and would love nothing more than to win in Chicago and move on. Do you think the Blackhawks will just roll over? Not a chance. Nobody who loves hockey will bet against Chicago winning game six and forcing yet another game seven. And face it, unless you’re a Ducks fan, that’s what we all want, right?
All Out War
There is something about the Stanley Cup Playoffs that brings most everyone’s game up to another level. Yes there are playoffs in all the major sports, but these hockey guys are insane, skating like their hair is on fire every time they jump over the wall. The level of desperation and determination keeps getting higher with every round. By the time the finals roll in, it’s crazy how hard the players play.
From goalies like Henrik Lundqvist, who basically has put the Rangers on his back against the Lightning, to Corey Crawford anchoring yet another Blackhawks quest for the Cup, the play is usually sensational.
Unless of course you have the night that Ben Bishop had, getting run after allowing five goals. I feel confident that we won’t see that again from Bishop. The Lightning may not beat the Rangers in games seven, but I don’t think it will be all on Bishop if they lose.
What is cooler than the handshake line at the completion of a Stanley Cup Playoffs series? After going at it for literally hours to achieve a common goal, the losing team stops and gives the winning team their proper acknowledgement. Alexander Ovechkin was miked up during the handshake line after the Washington Capitals dismissed the New York Islanders in game seven of this year’s playoffs.
There is a camaraderie among NHL players, and at the end of the battle, the all come together and acknowledge their opponents, and in some cases wish them well going forward. It’s part of what makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs so intriguing, a tradition that is time-honored and appreciated by players and fans alike.
Stanley Cup OT
The pinnacle of excitement may be a game seven in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but not far off is overtime hockey. If there was not enough excitement and tension for sixty minutes, just add another twenty and another until somebody scores. There is absolutely nothing like it in other sports.
Baseball has extra innings which is certainly compelling, and football does have overtime periods, too. But, the all-out effort that NHL teams give in regulation time gets ratcheted up even more in playoff hockey overtime. It’s edge of your seat excitement and pressure.
Matt Beleskey did this against the Blackhawks Monday night, early in the overtime period.
A great win for the Ducks after a crazy sixty minutes of regulation that saw Anaheim go wild scoring three goals fast, and then Chicago answering back to force the OT.
Of course, Beleskey’s goal was quick in the overtime. But, these games can go on and on. I remember an epic triple overtime battle years ago in 1996 between the Colorado Avalanche and the Chicago Blackhawks. Joe Sakic got by Ed Balfour to end what was the second consecutive overtime game in that series. Balfour made 57 saves that night, to Patrick Roy’s 32. The game was one of the first NHL games I ever watched, and from then on I was hooked.
You may not agree that Stanley Cup Playoffs smoke other sports’ playoffs. That’s fine. Just watch the Lightning versus the Rangers Friday night in their game seven and come back and tell me it’s not insanely exciting. Or game six between the ‘Hawks and the Ducks, with Chicago trying to stave off elimination and force a game six.
If you watch and afterwards tell me you don’t agree that the Stanley Cup playoffs are the best that will be fine. I won’t believe you, but that will be fine.
Sorry fellow hoops fans, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs are THE BEST.
— John Feinstein (@JFeinsteinBooks) May 26, 2015
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.