NHL playoffs remain underrated despite upsets



COLIN HORNING, Sports Writer

Many people would say springtime is the best time of year for sports. Baseball is starting back up, NBA playoffs are in full swing, March Madness recently finished and the Masters kicks off golf season for the summer.

A lot of sports fans usually forget about the NHL playoffs, which is often overshadowed by all of these new happenings in sports. This season’s NHL postseason has so far proven to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable playoff tournaments; all while gaining little-to-no attention aside from diligent hockey followers.

Never before has an NHL postseason (or postseason for any league, for that matter) seen this many first-round upsets. Only three higher-seeded teams out of the eight first-round matchups were able to advance, including three of the four top-seeded teams getting bounced out of the first round of the tournament (the Predators, Flames, Capitals and Lightning).

Both the Bruins and Sharks took seven games to avoid being upset by their lower-seeded opponent as well. What’s truly amazing about this season’s NHL playoffs is not only how unlikely first-round upsets typically occur in seven-game playoff series, but how we’ve seen five of the eight matchups result this way and seen very little attention regarding the Stanley Cup playoffs.

When we think of upsets in sports, the first one to come to mind for most people is likely the NCAA basketball tournament.

This is valid; March Madness is famous for its wild finishes and Cinderella teams making deep runs into the bracket. However, it only takes one game for an upset to occur in this setting. One game for the better team to go out and lay an egg and lose a game they should have won, or for the underdog to have a hot shooting game and pull off an unexpected victory.

In the seven-game playoff setting that both the NBA and NHL go by, this one game can easily be swept under the rug. The superior team can forget about the first game, because they potentially have six other chances to right the wrongs of the opening contest.

This is why first round upsets hardly ever occur in the NBA and NHL: In a seven-game series, the better team will come out on top the vast majority of the time.

Take the first round of the NBA playoffs this year: The Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets and San Antonio Spurs all came out victorious in their Game One matchups despite being the lower-seeded teams, yet still wound up losing the series. This is precisely why the Stanley Cup playoffs for this year have been so amazing.

Not only are these first-round, best-of-seven upsets extremely uncommon, but they have happened in the majority of series in this postseason.

Along with two other lower-seeded teams winning their series, this season’s playoffs have been completely under-appreciated.

While the NBA playoffs are in full swing and baseball has started back up, one must keep in mind that we as sports fans might be witnessing one of the greatest Stanley Cup playoffs in history.