Editor’s note: As of this report, there are eight teams alive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the Western Conference, the Chicago Blackhawks fell to the Minnesota Wild, 4-0 Tuesday, May 6. The Hawks lead the series 2-1 going into Friday’s game in St. Paul, Minn. The No. 1 seed Anaheim Ducks face the No. 3 Los Angeles Kings Thursday, May 8. The Kings lead 2-0 in that series. The winner faces Chicago or Minnesota in the conference final.
In the Eastern Conference, top-seeded Boston is battling the No. 3 Montreal Canadiens. The Pittsburgh Penguins are trying to outlast the New York Rangers.
For scores, visit the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs website.
By Doug Halberstadt
I can’t begin to tell you how many hours of professional hockey I’ve watched the last couple of weeks. There is something uniquely addicting about the NHL playoffs. In addition to watching each of the six games of the opening-round series between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues, and the first two games of the Hawks and Minnesota Wild series, I’ve seen a multitude of other playoff games. I’m thoroughly hooked.
During the regular season, I can’t imagine I’d have any interest whatsoever in sitting through a San Jose Sharks versus the Los Angeles Kings game, let alone a Philadelphia Flyers versus New York Rangers game. But for some inexplicable reason, when it comes to the playoffs, I find myself glued to the NHL network, CNBC and MSNBC. If there’s a playoff hockey game on, I’ve been tuned in.
The excitement level around the league at the stadiums is cranked up at least a couple of notches during the playoffs. The crowds are buzzing with electricity, and somehow that’s able to leak through my television, I can’t explain how, but it does.
I’ve discussed this phenomenon with other casual hockey fans, and we seem to be in agreement. Playoff hockey takes on an intensity that doesn’t exist during the regular season. Every shot on goal takes on a higher level of importance. Every blocked shot seems like a game-saver.
Perhaps it’s because of the impending finality of it all if your team doesn’t advance. Maybe it’s because the teams play a best-of-seven series and get infinitely more familiar and, thus, infinitely more annoyed with their opponents.
The play tends to be a lot more physical during the playoffs. The checks along the boards are glass-rattling and bone-jarring, yet there seems to be less fighting. Players are more reluctant to put their teams at risk by taking unnecessary fighting penalties during the playoffs. I like that.
Even if you’re not a hockey fan, I encourage you to check out a playoff game. Really give it a try. Don’t just stop on it for a minute or two while you’re channel surfing; I mean, watch an entire game. I think you’ll see the differences I’m talking about.
Take time to notice the skills these athletes possess. The skating, puck passing and goal tending is exceptional. You might even find yourself getting caught up in the excitement created by the announcers and the fans in attendance. That level of excitement is contagious. Especially knowing that a chance at winning the Stanley Cup is at stake.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.