Written by: Ray Hagan (rayhagan19)
Congratulations, NHL. You have given us the perfect playoff sport.
I won't lie, I believe that the NFL has the perfect regular season. It's short, every game matters, there's such parity in the league that on any given Sunday (or Thursday, or Saturday, or Monday depending on time of year), any team can beat any team. It lends itself better than any other sport to fantasy sports, which in and of itself has been huge to the NFL boom. The best part about the NFL regular season is that any game, regardless of rooting interest, grabs my attention. The NHL regular season feels like a grind sometimes, and doesn't capture my interest in the same way.
Come playoff time the NFL does a terrific job as well. I can't deny it, I'm glued to my TV for every game. The Super Bowl is the country's biggest television event of the year. That said, you can keep your playoffs, NFL, keep your Super Bowl. MLB, you can hang onto your World Series. NBA, ehhh. I'll take the NHL Playoffs over any other sport.
Let's break it down (4 points to best in category, 3 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth):
Playoff Qualifiers: The NBA and NHL share the same playoff format. 8 teams from each conference. MLB adopted a new format, adding a second wild card team, five teams from each league making the postseason. The NFL has 6 qualifiers every year. People will argue that too much of the field in the NHL and NBA qualifies for the playoffs. I'll admit that in the NBA there are too many qualifiers, but not in the NHL. How can it be that two leagues have the same playoff format and only one allows too many qualifiers you ask? In the NBA a team with a losing record often makes the playoffs, not so in the NHL, that's the difference. The NFL has the same problem. Everyone remembers the 7-9 Seahawks hosting a home Playoff game. MLB has the toughest postseason to qualify for, so I'll give them the nod here.
MLB: 4, NHL: 3, NFL: 2, NBA: 1
Playoff Format: MLB has a new 1 game play in between the two wild card teams, and a best-of-5 game first round series. All subsequent series are best-of-7. The NHL and NBA offer 4 rounds with a best-of-7 format. The NFL offers a single elimination tournament for qualifiers with the two best teams in each conference by record securing first round byes. The NBA and NHL share the same format, so it's hard to differentiate between the two, but given that, in my opinion the level of competition in the NHL bracket is higher than in the NBA as mentioned before, I'll give the nod to the NHL there. I actually preferred the old MLB format with 1 Wild Card Team.
It's not so much the added Wild Card, and one game play in that bothers me. It's that in the new best-of-5 format, the team with the worse record opens at home for 2 games, then travels the road for 3. I know the theory is that the home team will win each game. If that's the case, it means that the better team is going home down 0-2 and with the pressure to win every game. MLB is not doing any favors to what is supposed to be the better team. In addition, I'm a firm believer that the MLB needs to adopt a best-of-7 for all series after the play in game.
The very thing that makes the NFL regular season great, is what makes the playoffs so frightening, any team can win on any Sunday. That means that you've got a greater chance in the NFL than in any other sport that the better team will be eliminated from the Playoffs. While that unpredictability is in some ways a good thing, it can also lead to the better teams watching the big game from home. For format, let's give the win to the NHL.
NHL: 4 NFL: 3 MLB: 2 NBA: 1
Tradition: The MLB Playoffs have been around seemingly forever, and are steeped in tradition, from Reggie's 3 home runs to Larsen's perfect game, to the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" to Kirk Gibson's home run off of Eck. The MLB has moments in each generation that the members of that generation will NEVER forget. The NHL has traditions like the playoff beard, and the Detroit Octopus, and of course the skate with the Stanley Cup. The NFL offers maybe the single greatest tradition of all that is now ingrained in the US conscious EVERY single year, the Super Bowl. While the NBA has had its signature playoff moments, it offers nothing like the MLB's moments, the NHL's traditions, or the spectacle of the Super Bowl.
MLB: 4 NHL: 3 NFL: 2 NBA: 1
Level of Play: The NHL Playoffs offer, in my opinion, the most intense action of any Playoffs. EVERY single round is played like the Stanley Cup Finals. Every shift is played with an amped up intensity, every game is played like it's the last. Every single player leaves every bit of themselves on the ice every game. There's nothing quite like it, and with the most competitive match ups in all of Playoff sport, it amplifies it even more. While the level of play doesn't seem to change much in the MLB playoffs, the October mystique seems to make every pitch more important. A bad play in the NFL, NHL, or NBA playoffs might be forgotten. In the MLB playoffs it'll live in infamy. Yes, Bill Buckner, I'm talking to you. The NFL definitely ratchets up it's level in the playoffs, but it seems to be more of a round by round thing, instead of consistent all the way through. The first round feels empty with the best 4 teams enjoying a bye. The NBA brings its intensity up a level in the playoffs as well, and none of the 4 major sports lends itself to "Dynasty" teams quite like the NBA. The Bulls, Lakers, and Celtics all spring to mind. A team protecting and building its legacy as an NBA dynasty seems to take on a life of its own, and brings it's play up like you'll never see anywhere in the 4 major sports. No one will ever forget the Jordan "Flu game." That was a man singularly possessed by winning…that is the level of play I'm talking about.
NHL: 4 NBA: 3 MLB: 2 NFL: 1
Championship Round: The World Series has a tradition like no other, it's a highlight of the year for fans both young and old, whether your team is in it or not…everyone wants to see the World Series. No championship round takes on a life of its own like the World Series. The Stanley Cup Finals are an interesting animal. They don't garner the national interest like the other major sports championships, but no other Finals offers the same experience. Watching the NHL Finals, you can almost feel how badly the players want it, you can see more than in any other sport, that this moment is what they've been building for their whole life. You almost get the feeling that the level of play in the Stanley Cup Finals would be off the charts whether the TV cameras or fans were there, or whether it was being played on a pond. More than the other sports the NHL Stanley Cup Finals feels like it's about the love of the game. What can you say about the Super Bowl? It's an event. No other championship combines the sporting world, music world and Hollywood quite like the Super Bowl. Even the commercials take on a life of their own. There's something special about a game 7 in the final series of the other 3 sports, it's a culmination, win or go home. Every Super Bowl has that feeling, because it's always win or go home, combined with the giltz and glamour it's a true spectacle. Sadly, there seems to be more of a propensity for lopsided games in the Super Bowl than the Finals of the other sports. The NBA Finals are always special as well, especially when you get traditional rivals like the Lakers and Celtics, or Lakers and Sixers. Those Finals take on a remarkable feel, like it's a continuation of something greater rather than just a single year championship. You seldom get that in the other sports.
NFL: 4 MLB: 3 NHL: 2 NBA: 1
Trophy: Come on, this is a no-brainer. Even if you're not a hockey fan you know what the Stanley Cup is. It's the most recognizable both in look, and in name. The Trophy just feels different. When you see a player skating with the cup, it looks like the culmination of a lifelong dream, not just like the end of a season. The winner of the Super Bowl earns the Lombardi Trophy, it's got a good name, honoring Vince Lombardi. It's got a sleek look, and seems to be a pretty nice looking trophy. The World Series winner earns the Commissioner's Trophy. It's a nice enough looking trophy, but not all that special. It isn't named for anyone in particular, and as such, it's currently affiliated with Bud Selig, yes, that's a big minus for the award. It's fairly mundane, and really not deserving of the status of being the award for the World Series. Finally we have the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, it replaced the Walter A. Brown Trophy in 1977. It's a classy looking trophy, and gives the feel that it's basketball's answer to the Lombardi Trophy, but it just doesn't have the same style.
NHL: 4 NFL: 3 NBA: 2 MLB: 1
There you have it, scientific proof that the NHL Playoffs are the best in all of sports.
Do yourself a favor, if you're an NHL fan or not, a hockey fan, or not. I implore you to watch this years' Stanley Cup Playoffs and judge for yourself. I promise you, you won't regret it.
Written by: Matthew Blunk
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Written by: Matthew Blunk
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Written by: Matthew Blunk
1) Evgeni Malkin, C - Pittsburgh Penguins
2) Sidney Crosby, C - Pittsburgh Penguins
3) Claude Giroux, C - Philadelphia Flyers
4) Steven Stamkos, F - Tampa Bay Lightning
5) Jonathan Quick, G - Los Angeles Kings
6) Alexander Ovechkin, F - Washington Capitals
7) Henrik Lundqvist, G - New York Rangers