MATTHEW ROBERSON | SPORTS EDITOR | @mroberson22
Talk to anyone who follows the National Hockey League — either casually or as a devoted fan who watches every game — and they will surely tell you how special the Stanley Cup Playoffs are. Unlike the other major sports, aspects of the team like regular season records and home ice advantage are largely unimportant.
While the NBA playoffs are great in their own right, it often takes a round or two for the action to really start heating up. In the first round of the NBA playoffs, many of the storylines for the underdogs center around questions like “Can they win just one game?” or “How will getting this playoff experience help the team in the future?” Rarely do we hear about the seven or eight seeds in the NBA having a legitimate chance to advance.
Hockey has no such problems. Barring a truly dominant team at the top of the standings, the lower seeds typically have an excellent chance to pull the upset and even make a deep run. As of Tuesday night, this year the lower seeded San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders have already upset their higher seeded opponents.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Kings’ opponents in the final were the New Jersey Devils, who were a mere sixth-seed. The idea of an eight meeting a six in the NBA Finals seems so ridiculous that if it were the plot to a fictional movie, many fans would say that it was too unrealistic.
Of course, hockey still has a ways to go to match basketball in terms of popularity in this country. Given the simplicity of basketball, it is much easier for America’s youth to gravitate toward the sport. Hockey demands pounds of padding, helmets, sticks, pucks, nets, goals, etc.
For those who did not grow up playing hockey, especially most of us on the West Coast, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are the time to experience the pure adrenaline and excitement that make hockey unmatched. Sit down and watch the last two minutes of a one-goal playoff hockey game, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll be asking for more. Given the nature of the NHL, that more could include a handful of six, seven, and eight seeds.