It’s fairly easy to argue that the NHL playoffs are better than the NBA playoffs: suspense, level of competitiveness, athletic sacrifice. One could plausibly argue the Stanley Cup playoffs are among the best competitions in all of sports.
Let’s start with these four reasons, one for each period plus overtime.
1. Competition, from the first day. The NHL’s Eastern Conference playoffs pits the Boston Bruins against the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings aren’t their normal Stanley Cup-favorite selves this season, but the separation between the “worst” team in the hockey postseason and the best can be scant.
In 2012, the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings won the whole thing. And before you start arguing that somehow devalues the hockey playoffs, consider what awaits the NBA playoffs over the next four weeks: a drawn-out, tedious grind just to get to the inevitable Eastern Conference finals of Indiana vs. Miami. During that month, the NHL will host who knows how many overtime thrillers — just so teams can get to the second round. Which brings us to …
2. Overtime. If the Stanley Cup playoffs are among the best things in sports, what does that make hockey playoff overtime? We’re talking Cuban missile crisis tension. Every single sequence has the potential to end the game. Try to get up to use the restroom. Really. You’ll miss the play that defines your team’s season — unless you don’t. And if you don’t, get comfortable. Who knows when these things will end?
Double overtime in the NBA means another 10 minutes added to regulation — and more timeouts. Double overtime in the Stanley Cup playoffs adds as much as 40 minutes. Pure exhaustion. Then add 20 more. Factor in how difficult scoring a single goal is — deep in the playoffs, it can be nearly impossible — and the potential for heroes to be determined after midnight grows. Which leads us to another point …
3. Heroes. Before the NBA playoffs, we can all but determine who the heroes will be: LeBron and Durant and the stars that are already established. But it’s safe to say that the list of potential heroes is longer and deeper in hockey — as long and deep as every single roster involved.
Yes, Sidney Crosby could be the hero for Pittsburgh. But so could Craig Adams. The story lines are completely unpredictable.
4. Finally, there’s the prize itself. You can’t drink out of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Is that enough?
Tune in from the start. Prepare to stay up late — without moving. And then put bets on who might decide this thing.
Really, this isn’t an are-the-Stanley-Cup-playoffs-better-than-the-NBA-playoffs argument. It’s: What, in all of sports, is better than the Stanley Cup playoffs?