Playoff Hockey and Why YOU Should Watch It

Playoff Hockey and Why YOU Should Watch It

Eric Joy, Contributor

Compared to watching an NHL game, even a regular season game, watching the Huntsville Havoc is like riding a tricycle. Sure, it’s a fun experience for the whole family. You pay $10 for a ticket, you spend $7 on a soft pretzel, and you sit down and watch some goals, and maybe a fight or two. However, watching the NHL is like riding a motorcycle. Players moving at breakneck speed, firing slap shots at 100 miles an hour, and Goalies making mind-bending saves that seem to break the laws of Physics. 

People don’t really understand this, but in the regular season, the NHL rarely sees fights anymore. In the 2018-19 season, there were only .18 fights per game. Now, I understand that this will turn some people away from the sport, because who doesn’t want to see someone in knife shoes violently beat the crap out of someone? If that’s what you’re interested in, watch playoff hockey. In the playoffs, the intensity from the regular season is amped up to 1,000. Their intensity is always fueled by a ruckus crowd, always blanketing the arena with a loud layer of noise. 

Some goals scored in the regular season just don’t receive a massive applause. If, for some reason, you’re watching the Anaheim Ducks (they’re terrible) and they score a goal, chances are it’s in front of a mostly empty building. I will concede that bad NHL hockey is an absolute eyesore to watch, more so than watching a bad team in another professional league. But, if a goal is scored in the playoffs, it is always in front of a sold-out barn (arena) and the crowd always drowns out the goal horn. 

Like underdog stories? Then the Stanley Cup Playoffs are for you! In the 2019 playoffs, the one and two seeds from both conferences all lost, and the team that won it that year, the St. Louis Blues, had existed since 1967 and had never previously won the Stanley Cup. In the NBA, only 6 8-seeds have ever advanced past the first round. On Average, the NHL sees that total every decade, with the 8-seed having around a 26% chance to beat their aspiring overlord. Arguably, the greatest upset of all time happened this year! The Boston Bruins won 65 games in the regular season (an NHL record), put up 135 points (an NHL record), and had an 82.3% points percentage (highest in almost 50 years). They lost in the first round……To the Florida Panthers…… Who squeaked into the playoffs…… And the Bruins had a 3-1 series lead……. That’d be like if the 2016 Warriors failed to beat the 41-41 Rockets in the first round. 

Like Goals? Then the Edmonton Oilers are for you! They are currently in a second round series versus the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The Oilers have the two best players in the league, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and they have good depth to back them up. The Oilers are the most exciting team left in the playoffs, and I would recommend any aspiring hockey fan to start with them. 

Like Goaltending? Then the Florida Panthers are for you. They have one Sergei Bobrovsky in their possession, and he is widely credited as pretty much the only reason they were able to upset the Boston Bruins. While not sporting the best save percentage, only .909, he has a 6-1 record, and the Florida Panthers are 1 game away from making their first conference finals appearance in over 2 decades. 

Like structured defensive play,? Well me neither, but if you are a masochist, the Carolina Hurricanes are for you! Their defense, headed by a revived Brent Burns and an ever-good Jacob Slavin, had only allowed 17 goals across 8 games. That is a low total. Now, you may make the argument that they did just concede 8 against the Devils in one game, but to that argument, I say shut up. Now, don’t get me wrong, they are no slouches in the offensive zone. Brent Burns is a composer on the power play, orchestrating beautiful passes towards Sebastian Aho, and Aho thanks him by firing that pass right into the net. Seth Jarvis has also been pretty good this postseason.

Like a villain arc? Then the Las Vegas Golden Knights are for you! The Golden Knights are the second youngest team in the league, playing their first game in 2017, and they were immediately good out of the gate, making many people angry (for some reason). The Golden Knights then proceeded to become one of the most arrogant teams in the league, and they have aggressively pursued the Cup, poaching great talent from other teams at their own expense. They picked up superstar Jack Eichel from the Sabres, former Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo, former Senators captain Mark Stone, oh, and Jonathan Quick. The Knights are a very good team, and look to put the Edmonton Oilers out of business.

Other teams that didn’t really fit into a category are the New Jersey Devils and the Seattle Kraken. Both teams are led by young superstars, Jack Hughes for the Devils, and Matty Beniers and Jared McCann for the Kraken. If you want to watch a particular player, watch Jack Hughes. His silky-smooth stick skills are salivating, and his lethal wrist shot gives goalies nightmares. 

The Kraken are the youngest team in the league, coming into existence only last year. While not conducting as strong of an expansion draft as Las Vegas did, they were set up for success. Led by Jared McCann, Branden Tanev, Matty Beniers, and coached by… David Hakstol?! He was the definition of mid in Philadelphia, how’s he good here?! Anyway, Seattle is a scrappy team that never gives up, and they proved that by knocking out the defending champs, the Colorado Avalanche, in the first round. They hold a 2-1 lead over the Dallas Stars.

The Stars are another team that don’t easily fit into a category. They are absolutely carried by their superstars, in Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, Miro Heiskanen, and Jake Oettenger. To be fair to the rest of the team, they have shown up for the playoffs, but they face a daunting task in the Kraken. With Oettenger not playing to his best and looking like swiss cheese in game 3, who knows if they will be able to progress. 

To conclude, I will give you one more piece of advice. This is by far the most important piece of advice you have heard, and will ever hear for the rest of your life:

Don’t watch the Toronto Maple Leafs.