By Matthew Bowker
It’s the age-old debate. The NBA playoffs vs. the NHL playoffs. Everyone has a favorite. Everyone chooses a side. There is no in between. There is only right and wrong. And in this case, if you choose the NBA playoffs as the superior, you, my friend, are very wrong.
The NHL Stanley Cup playoffs is arguably the best postseason in sports, right up there with March Madness and the NFL playoffs. What separates the Stanley Cup playoffs from the rest, however, is the level of competition. Every playoff game is close, it seems. Of the 46 first-round games played, 22 went to overtime, with one triple-overtime game.
There is nothing more exciting in sports than an overtime hockey game, with teams trading rushes up the ice, laying it all on the line. Four other games were separated by a goal with under two minutes to go, before the other team scored an empty net goal to seal the win. More than half of the first-round games came down to the wire.
Compare that to the first-round of the NBA playoffs, where only four games went to overtime. Even so, watching the final two minutes of any basketball game is insufferable, with someone getting fouled every five seconds to try and prolong the game and limit the leading teams’ possessions. Not only does this strategy never work, but it is almost as entertaining as a trip to the DMV.
The NBA matchups are also much less compelling than the NHL’s playoffs. Two teams in the East made the playoffs with a losing record. The Celtics were promptly swept and the Nets were blown out by 25 in the final game of their series. As if that wasn’t enough reason to pass on watching the playoffs, the Bulls smacked the Bucks by nearly 60 points. These lopsided contest are exactly what makes the NBA playoffs less attractive. Most of the series are jokes, featuring teams that have no right to be in the playoffs in the first place. Do we really need two excruciating months of bad basketball to figure out that the Warriors and Cavs are going to the Finals?
The NHL playoffs, on the other hand, are as exciting as ever since the league switched to their current format two seasons ago. Each playoff team is guaranteed to face a hated division-rival in the first two rounds of the playoffs. These games are always close and highlight physical battles well worth watching. In the NHL, every team has a chance. In the past, we have seen the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings take home the Cup. When was the last time you saw an eighth-seed even advance past the first round in the NBA?
Call me crazy, but I would rather watch a triple-overtime game between two teams that hate each other’s guts than watch a blowout basketball game that has little to no consequences.