I will always love basketball more than hockey. Basketball is my favorite sport to play and one of my favorites to watch. So, I never thought I’d be saying this, but:
Thank god the hockey playoffs are starting up again tonight, because the NBA playoffs have been just awful. As for hockey? Incredible.
The Sharks-Stars 4OT masterpiece was probably the best hockey game I’ve ever seen and, logically, Marty Turco and Evgeni Nabokov put in two of the best goaltending performances I’ve ever seen. I can’t even imagine going out there for the 4th overtime and being able to walk, let alone ice skate with any urgency!
Yes, my favorite team, the New York Rangers, failed to advance to this round. This definitely puts a damper on the rest of the playoffs, but you have to realize – I haven’t been this big into hockey for about ten years. When the Rangers started going downhill in the late 90s, I lost interest and I was always more of a basketball fan anyway.
But, there’s one thing that can’t be denied. The NHL playoffs this year have blown the NBA playoffs out of the water.
I didn’t see this coming at all, with how competitive the Western Conference was this year. But, the conference's first round was an absolute bore, with the higher seeds toppling the lower ones easily. Same with the Eastern Conference, although surprisingly, the Celtics and Pistons were pushed a bit. The games themselves have been downhill since Game 1 of the Spurs-Suns series, in which players hit a series of clutch shots, including Tim Duncan nailing his first three of the season to put it into a second overtime.
The second round has been more of the same. Every home game has won. Yawnnnnnnn.
Not the case in the NHL.
There was the drama of Sean Avery’s stick-wielding antics in front of nemesis Martin Brodeur. And the brilliant 7 game series between the Flyers and Capitals, decided in overtime no less. And, of course, the valiant comebacks by the Rangers and Sharks, only to fall short. The best part about the NHL playoffs? They’ve been unpredictable.
Look at the first round. The 6th seeded Avalanche beat the 3rd seeded Wilds. The 7th seeded Flames pushed the 2nd seeded Sharks to 7. The 8th seeded Bruins did the same to the top seeded Canadiens. The 6th seeded Flyers toppled the 3rd seeded Capitals.
And now, the Eastern Conference Finals features a 2 vs. a 6 and the Western Conference Finals is a 1 vs.5 matchup. Hardly what anyone saw coming.
My final point is a simple one: nothing beats hockey playoffs. Nothing beats the intensity that comes with one shot of the puck, or one freak play, defining an entire team’s fate.
I’ll still be watching Kobe, Paul and Garnett go at it. But, for some reason, I think Crosby, Franzen and Turco may provide the better entertainment.