We’re turning up the heat on this edition of Baron’s Beef. The NHL and NBA playoffs continue on as we head into the end of April and soon flip the calendar to May. However, the NHL Playoffs have provided a lot more excitement than their NBA counterpart. Though northwest Georgia is not exactly a hockey hotbed, here are five reasons why this year’s NHL Playoffs are superior to the NBA Playoffs, and why you should be watching.
1. Upsets and an upset of upsets
Who doesn’t love a good upset? Despite still being in the first round, the NHL Playoffs have already featured some upsets. On Friday, the second-place wildcard team, Colorado Avalanche, knocked out the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, Calgary, in five games. But even that upset pales in comparison to what took place last week. Last Tuesday, the second-place wildcard team in the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Blue Jackets, swept the No. 1 overall team in the NHL Playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Yes, you read that right, SWEPT. To give a little context, Tampa won the President’s Trophy, which is awarded to the team with the most points at the end of the season. The Lightning recorded 128 points, only losing 20 games in an 82 game schedule, almost unheard of in the NHL. The next closest team? 107 points. Many people were picking Tampa Bay to go all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Instead, the Lightning went crashing out of the postseason, becoming the first-ever President’s Trophy winner to be swept out of the first round of the playoffs. Turning back to the NBA, could you imagine the Golden State Warriors losing in five or getting swept out in the first round? I can’t. Milwaukee or Toronto? Not this year. For a good deal of this first round of the NBA Playoffs, it’s pretty much gone down accordingly with a lack of surprises.
2. Close games
The 2019 NHL Playoffs have so far presented multiple one-goal games. Of the 43 games played through Monday night, 18 games have been one-goal finishes. Of those 18, eight have gone to sudden-death overtime. Hockey is one of the best sports to watch live. If you find yourself in a city with an NHL team during the hockey season (October-May/June), I highly recommend you check out a game, especially if its playoff time.
3. Long series
We’ve had some lengthy series so far in the NHL Playoffs. Of the eight playoff matchups in the first round, five have gone to at least six games and three will feature win-or-go-home game sevens. In the NBA Playoffs, only one game will for certain feature a game six (San Antonio vs. Denver). Two series have already ended as Boston swept Indiana and Milwaukee did the same to Detroit. Every other series is currently at 3-1 in favor of the higher seeded. It’s always more compelling if the lower-seeded team presents a major challenge to the higher seed, but that doesn’t look to be the case in this year’s NBA Playoffs.
The first round of the NHL Playoffs have not disappointed. We’ve had close contests, improbable upsets and intriguing storylines. Like I mentioned earlier, hockey is one of the best sports to see live. If you are ever in a city with an NHL team, consider giving it a try. No, it’s not a sport that has garnered major interest in this area, but it should be given a chance. Hockey is a fast-paced game with constant action. You just never know what you’re going to see. So as the first round of the NHL Playoffs comes to an end and the second round begins, consider tuning into a game. The playoffs provide excitement for both seasoned NHL fans and novice viewers alike.