Entries with the tag: playoffs
(Apologies for the Public Service Announcement tone of this but I had to get it off my chest.)
Have you seen those commercials for USA Hockey/Hockey Canada reminding psycho parents to “relax, it’s just a game”?
Sometimes, I feel like certain fans need to watch that friendly reminder during the fervor of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Look, I love the game. I invest a significant portion of my time, energy, and money, both personally and professionally into it. I break down replays, talk about trade rumors, cheer goals and groan losses, just like all of you. It’s my game, it’s our game, it’s the best damn game on the planet.
But really, it’s just a game.
I make no secret about my San Jose Sharks fandom despite writing about all things NHL. So like any good Sharks fan, I was in my season seat for the disappointing Game 1 loss against Anaheim. Two things off the ice made me shake my head and roll my eyes in disappointment/amusement.
The first took place in the third period. After the first Anaheim goal, a woman in my section—a regular who’s very vocal about her support—pushed her way out of the row, telling people that she just couldn’t take it anymore, that the Sharks were going to go scoreless in four straight, and that she just couldn’t stand being in there. She disappeared into the night, leaving her bewhildered companion to sit there next to an empty seat (I hope they weren’t driving home together).
Maybe Gary Bettman finally decided to take Sean Avery’s advice and go for the whole “heroes and villains” marketing concept. Maybe Vince McMahon fixed the final weeks of the schedule to get these playoff matchups. Or maybe we’re just lucky.
On Wednesday, we start one of the most intriguing first rounds in NHL history. Just about every series has a unique storyline that’s a great reason to watch (that is, in addition to the general awesomeness of the Stanley Cup playoffs).
Not sure where to spend your time over the next two weeks? My advice is borrow a second TV from a neighbor, put your sets side-by-side, and enjoy. Here’s what you’ll be getting:
With all but one team at the halfway point of the season (Ottawa’s played 40 games, but they’re out of the picture anyways), we’ve got a little bit of separation now between the haves and have-nots. The problem is that there’s still a bunch of teams in limbo, and the trick to getting that magical 8th spot isn’t winning as much it is a combination of your own team winning and every other team losing.
Consider the wacky Western Conference, where 8th-place Colorado leads 14th-place Los Angeles by a mere five points. In the east, things are a little more settled, where four teams (Buffalo, Carolina, Florida, and Pittsburgh) are battling it out for the last two spots.
Here’s the question, though. Sure, miracle runs to the Cup final are possible (see: Edmonton, 2006) for teams that just squeak into the post-season…but how often does that happen? As fans, we want hope, and what gives more hope than a new franchise player?
So if your team is in that bubble where they are just barely on the outside looking in, what would you prefer? Do you want a complete tank for the rest of the season to ensure the John Tavares pick (good luck being worse than the Islanders) or do you want to scratch and claw for an 8th-place spot because, you know, anything can happen?
With the Pittsburgh Penguins sliding out of a playoff spot after their recent shutout loss to the New York Rangers, it’s time to start talking Stanley Cup hangover. No, it’s not just teams that win the actual Cup that seem to have a hangover. Take a look at what’s happened to the finalists since the 2000-01 season—it ain’t pretty:
Regular season games have already taken place but for those watching the arms race in the Western Conference, the competition truly begins on Thursday night when Pacific Division heavyweights San Jose and Anaheim go at each other while Detroit showcases its might in a Cup-raising opener. These are strange times for many Western teams, when just about every team believes that it might have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup. And for the most part, that’s probably true—squeak into the playoffs and there’s enough parity that you can do some damage. That’s how things go in the wild, unpredictable west.
Of course, the trick is to actually get a playoff spot. That’s a different story.