In the midst of NFL Draft speculation, racism in the front office and admittedly great NBA playoffs, the NHL is getting overlooked. Again. Just because coverage is being limited to a second-rate cable sports network and 5 minutes of Barry Melrose each night however, doesn’t mean that these playoffs are definitely worth watching.
People are raving about the first round of the NBA playoffs, and with good reason, it’s been spectacular. The NHL playoffs have been incredible too, mind you. Six first round series went at least six games, three of those going to game seven. The Colorado Avalanche, the top team in the Central Division, lose in seven games to a the Wild Card Minnesota Wild, after leading the series two games to none and eventually three games to two. The San Jose Sharks were up three games to none against the Los Angeles Kings, whose normally great netminder was playing poorly. The Kings won the series in seven games. Just like they did twice last season, the Blackhawks came from behind and won against a bitter rival (at least one of those series last year was a rivalry, anyway), defeating the St. Louis Blues in six games after being down two to none. That’s not even half the story.
You want storylines? How about the arguably best player in the league, Sidney Crosby, is entering tonight’s game with zero goals, only six assists and -5 rating for the playoffs? Or the fact that the aforementioned comeback kids, the Kings, are looking to advance to the semis by upsetting two higher seeds in a row, already holding an advantage over the #1 seeded Ducks? What about Bryan Bickell? The Blackhawks’ left winger has 5 goals through 8 playoff games, after scoring 11 in 80 regular season games, one year after scoring 9 playoff goals following a regular season total of 9 goals.
Let’s talk a bit more about these Blackhawks. Yes, I’m biased because their my team, but their success, pedigree and potential is undeniable. Through two games against the Wild, they have nine goals compared to three. As I previously mentioned, they won four straight after losing the first two games of their series with St. Louis, and now their streak is at six straight wins. Goalie Corey Crawford, after giving up four goals in two straight games against the Blues, has now only given up nine is the last 5 games. The talent on this team is incredible. Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Keith, Seabrook, the list goes on. They’ve already won the Stanley Cup twice in four years, and if a potential dynasty isn’t enough to create interest, I’m not sure what else would.
I’m not even scratching the surface here. The playoffs thus far have been incredible, and per usual, hockey isn’t getting enough respect. I’m well aware that the NHL is the fourth most popular of the four major sports, and the playoffs in the NBA this year have been awesome and the league is overshadowing its icy counterpart. But the quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup is fantastic this year in its own right, and it deserves the attention it’s getting and a whole lot more. The postseason is just getting started, and I for one can’t wait to see where it goes. Why? Because it’s the Cup.