Why You Should Watch the NHL Playoffs
Posted by DrFunke on May 10, 2009
This will be my one post about hockey (probably), because pretty much no one seems to give a shit about the NHL. I, on the other hand, am a huge hockey fan and do give a shit. Several shits in fact. So I will try my hardest and subsequently fail horribly by giving you, the morally bankrupt and bestiality practicing Sans Morality reader, a few not-so-obvious reasons to tune in and watch some of what has been a pretty amazing chase for the cup so far.
1. The league’s top 3 forwards in one series: Pens vs. Caps. This one is actually pretty obvious, and the series is already at 3-2 Pens. But Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby’s Penguins playing Alexander Ovechkin’s Capitals has been an absolutely ridiculous series. Malkin was the NHL’s top scorer during the regular season, followed by Ovechkin in 2nd and Crosby in 3rd. Crosby is the one of the best technical and all-around players in the league, but Ovechkin is possibly the most dominant athlete playing team sports right now (Blah blah blah LeBron, but watch Ovechkin play before you really make a decision. I’m an NBA fan too, and it’s damn close between who’s more dominating, physically and skillwise). Watching him on the ice when he’s playing against your team is absolutely terrifying. He takes about 10 shots again, and every time you will be absolutely convinced he is going to score. An underrated part of his game is how physical he is; the dude is built like a linebacker at 6’3″ 225 lbs, and he occasionally just destroys people on the ice (generally because most of his hits are pretty illegal, but it’s still hardcore as hell). Probably the best part about watching him, though, is how much you can tell he loves the game. When he scores he doesn’t act like he’s been there before, he loses his goddamn mind and it’s fun every single time. In the NBA, you need to wait for the finals to (maybe) see Kobe vs. LeBron. In the NHL, it’s happening right now, but only if D-Wade was playing too.
As you may have figured, both of these teams are heavy on offensive talent, which means these games are incredibly fun to watch. Pittsburgh has another budding young star in Jordan Staal, cousin to famed Icelandic player Gunnar Stahl. In addition to Ovechkin, the Caps have 2 young players named Nick Backstrom and Alex Semin who finished in the top 20 in scoring in the league, aging but still lethally effective superstar Sergei Federov, and Mike Green, the league’s top scoring defender and a nominee for the league’s best defenseman. They are also starting a rookie goalie, Simeon Varlamov, who is talented but ridiculously unpolished, meaning any game he’s in could be a shutout or he could surrender 5 goals, and there’s no way to know in advance. The absurd thing about this paragraph? Aside from Federov, the oldest player is Alexander Semin, who’s 25. The second oldest is the 23 year-old Ovechkin. But jokes on you fags, I write for a high-profile blog that pays me millions upon millions of dollars per word after beautiful word I publish. You can all suck it, if you know what I mean.*
*(I meant my penis.)
2. A Young Underdog: The Chicago Blackhawks. There are a whole bunch of reasons this team is worth watching, so I’ll try and curb my bandwagon fandom and keep this relatively short. First off, they have Nikolai Khabibulin (that took about 448 tries to spell right) in net. He’s pretty good, but his nickname is “The ‘Bulin Wall,” and that’s fucking awesome. Second, their captain is 21 year-oldJonothan Toews (pronounced “Taves”), and one of their top 3 players is 20 year-old Patrick Kane, who is a FUCKIN’ AMERICAN WHOOOO!!!!! Third, they have a black guy who is listed at 6’4″ and 250, but is actually pushing 270. He is a ridiculously fast and physical skater, and he lays some hits on people that will make you wonder why anyone would ever want to play hockey. He also provides the Hawks with an advantage because Canadians are scared of black people, which I believe is why Chicago is now up 3-2 in games on Vancouver right now. Chicago also has the most comeback wins of any playoff team right now, which makes all their games even more exciting than a Vin Diesel movie (Fast and Furious franchise obviously excluded, Chronicles of Riddick up for debate).
Probably the best reason to watch them play, however, is for the few minutes before their home games start. The Blackhawks secretly have the best national anthem tradition in America. All the fans stay standing and scream at the absolute top of their lungs the entire time. The video I linked to is good, but I haven’t met a single person who has watched the national anthem on live TV and not gotten the chills. Even if you don’t intend on watching the game, tune in about 5 or 10 minutes before game 6 on Monday night. It’s one of the best things happening in sports right now that, for whatever reason, no one seems to know about.
3. Canadian People + Having to Talk on Live TV for a few Hours = Unintentional Comedy. It’s hard to put into words how bad announcing is in hockey. The guys are brutally unfunny (bad joke = 10 seconds of depressingly forced laughter), they rarely say anything that’s insightful, and they say “aboot.” Really the best comparison I could think of is that it’s like watching a 2 and a half hours of the writers from “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” describe a hockey game. Feel the excitement.
4. The Physicality. Recently, the Lakers and Rockets series has become a big deal because of how physical the play has been. The series that really should be focused for it’s physical nature is Detroit vs. Anaheim. Every game of this has absolutely brutal; after about 3/4 of every play, there is some kind of scrum or altercation between at least 2 players, and generally more like 5 or 6 are involved. Many people asked how the Celtics were supposed to play another series after their wild first round match-up against the Bulls, but if you watch one game of the Wings vs. the Ducks, you’ll wonder how either team will be able to walk onto the bus, let alone play again in 2 days.
5. Intensity. There isn’t a single sport that has a postseason that requires more intensity than the NHL’s. You might think there is, and you would be wrong. In hockey more than any other sport the talent level is so high that you can’t slack off or mess around on any single shift, or else your team will most likely get scored on and it will be your fault. I already talked about the step up in physical play, but the intensity is most evident in the skating and puck possession. Players skate for every lose puck like it’s life or death, and the physical sacrifice they make is enough to make you wonder how well their brains function. Hockey players earn their tough reputation.
Honorable Mention: 1. Those awesome new commercials the NHL managed to not fuck up, unlike everything else it’s ever done. (My personal favorite is this one, Stephane Matteau’s double OT goal in game 7 of the eastern conference finals to send the Rangers to the cup in 1994.) 2. The Detroit Red Wings are one of the 3 most impressive franchises in sports right now. They’ve been one of the league’s top teams for about 15 years, and maintained their success after the lockout and rule changes. I don’t think they’ve ever made a dumb personnel decision. 3. Most teams now play an offensive style that relies on putting the puck to the front of the net and getting in the goalie’s face. This means that pretty much every time a team takes a shot, it feels like a goal might get scored, and I pee a little in my pants. 4. Great goalies: Roberto Luongo is the best of the bunch, Chris Osgood is one of the best playoff winners any team could ask for, the Bulin Wall is involved, Ducks rookie Jonas Hiller has been doing his best impression of a brick wall for most of the playoffs, Tim Thomas vs. Cam Ward is the best goaltending matchup of the playoffs so far, and Marc-Andre Fleury vs. Simeon Varlamov are both pretty shitty to meh. 5. This has nothing to do with the playoffs, but Scott Gomez of the Rangers might give one of the funniest interviews in sports. Watch this, and this to watch him in his element. Any time he has to talk to the TV network’s interviewer between periods, he gives them as much shit as humanly possible, and it’s generally amazing to watch.
So the choice is yours reader. There’s a lot to love about these playoffs, and hopefully I will not the only person in America watching. Also, sorry this is so long.