The NHL postseason. A time for sports fans unlike any other.
There is something about the Stanley Cup Playoffs that is undeniably amazing. 82 games behind us (or 48 as it were), and only 16 teams remaining. Nearly two months of the best hockey you can watch, each and every year.
Where I come from, if you're not glued to your television for the next 8 weeks, many think something is wrong with you. I would have to agree, because to me, the NHL playoffs are the greatest postseason in all of sports.
|Photo by: Harry How|
You will have to forgive me if my writing comes across as obtuse. I don't get a lot of sleep these days. If I sleep, I might miss out on something great. If I miss that overtime goal or that amazing save, what will I have to talk about around the water cooler the following morning?
Every series this postseason has its share of emotion and a great back story. When two teams square off for 4 to 7-consecutive games against one another in such a violent and physical sport, rivalries are bound to surface. Often times new rivalries are formed, while at others old ones are renewed.
The San Jose Sharks completed their first postseason sweep in franchise history on Tuesday night, downing the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in overtime. The Canucks are the first team eliminated from this year's festivities.
Ottawa and Montreal have played a gritty series full of physical play and a plethora of drama. Bad blood and a genuine dislike for each other has fueled one of the better matchups so far. The Senators currently lead the Habs 3 games to 1.
I could cover every single series, but instead will focus my attention on the one series in particular that I can't get enough of. The surprising upstart 8th seeded New York Islanders are tied 2-2 with the team many consider to be the NHL's best, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The story of the series is one of goaltending, but for all the wrong reasons. In fashion akin to last year's playoffs, the Penguins find themselves in the midst of another scoring frenzy. Through the first 4 games, Pittsburgh has a 17-14 edge in goals scored. The 31 goals average out to almost 8 total goals per game.
In the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Penguins lost their opening round matchup to the Philadelphia Flyers in 6 games. That series had 56 goals, an average of over 9 goals per contest.
These types of series are a recipe for exciting hockey. Ask anybody who grew up in the 80s and early 90s and was lucky enough to watch hockey in its heyday. I am confident they would agree.
The moral of the story for Penguins fans is that without defense and goaltending, all your regular season triumphs are for naught. Marc-Andre Fleury needs to be much better between the pipes for this team to have any chance at winning Lord Stanley's Cup. While the Penguins looked like the team to beat in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, the playoffs bring a brand new chapter.
Just look at the Los Angeles Kings of last year. Could we see another 8-seed win it all? I think every team left in these playoffs has a chance to take home the Cup.
The primary reason why the NHL is so exciting this time of year is because the league has more parity than you could imagine. That is evident in the fact that there have already been 10 games go to overtime this postseason.
Perhaps Bettman did one thing right after all.