I’m not going to fabricate this; I love hockey but I don’t watch nearly as much of it as I would like. The exception is of course “playoff hockey.”
The National Hockey League Playoffs begin tonight and there is no better tournament in all of professional sports than these playoffs. That’s right, I said, “no better tournament.” You can tell me about the NBA Playoffs or the NFL Playoffs but neither of those has the consistent drama, aggression and spectacular play-making like the NHL Playoffs do.
If you aren’t a hockey fan then you don’t understand and I get that but I would encourage you to give it a try. Remember, these men aren’t racing up and down a court or field wearing shoes. They are on a sheet of ice with what amounts to a razor blade strapped to each foot. They run into each other at full speed, they take hard rubber pucks off of various body parts even when those pucks are traveling at upwards of 100 miles per hour.
They won’t just bang into each other either. They’ll also slam hard into walls and plexiglass. They’ll whack each other across the arms and wrists and ankles with their sticks in the hopes that one of the officials doesn’t see it.
There will be stitches mid-game and that player will return to the action because that’s what hockey players do. There will be teeth knocked out and there will be bumps and bruises and injuries that are described only as “upper body” or “lower body” injuries. Because that’s what hockey coaches do.
You’ll see coaches yelling at officials and coaches yelling at each other. There will be fans screaming, horns sounding and you’re going to see an octopus thrown on the ice in Detroit. in fact you’ll probably see several eight-legged creatures come flying from the rafters of Joe Louis Arena.
What you are also going to see is great play and overtime thrillers because that what happens in playoff hockey. There will be flukey goals and quirky bounces but there will be amazing saves and eye-hand coordination that will blow your mind.
That’s playoff hockey and that’s why you should be watching.
Here are my first-round picks.
Minnesota vs St. Louis, Wild in 7
Chicago vs Nashville, Blackhawks in 6
Anaheim vs Winnipeg, Ducks in 5
Vancouver vs Calgary, Canucks in 7
Semis – Blackhawks over Minnesota in 6, Ducks over Canucks in 5
Conference Finals – Blackhawks over Ducks in 7
Montreal vs Ottawa, Sens in 6
Tampa Bay vs Detroit, Lighting in 7
NY Rangers vs Pittsburgh, Rangers in 5
Washington vs NY Islanders, Caps in 5
Semis – Lightning Over Senators in 6, Rangers over Capitals in 5
Conference Finals – Rangers over Lightning in 6
Stanley Cup Finals – Rangers over Blackhawks in 6
What you need to know:
A team from Canada has not hoisted the Stanley Cup since Montreal in 1993. Prior to that year, a Canadian team had won the Cup in seven of the previous nine seasons… There are five Canadian teams in this year’s playoffs… The Conn Smythe Award is given to the best player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It can and has been won by a player on the losing team. The last to do this was Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere… There were no Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2005 due to the NHL Lockout…