As an avid sports fan I can defiantly tell you one thing…
Nobody outside of central Florida wants to watch the Orlando Magic beat the Atlanta Hawks by 30 points a night. That series is just another piece of evidence that the NBA just doesn’t live up to the parity and competitiveness of the NHL come playoff time.
Let’s compare the Eastern Conference of each sport. The top three seeds in the east in the NHL (Washington, Buffalo and New Jersey) all lost in the first round. The top four seeds in the east in the NBA (Cleveland, Orlando, Atlanta and Boston), all advanced, all but Atlanta doing so in five or less games.
Now in the west, the Spurs and Jazz “upset” their opponents, the Mavericks and Nuggets but, the Nuggets were a (4) seed and the Jazz a (5) seed so no big advantage there. The Spurs were the playoff proven team and were only a handful of wins behind the Mavericks in the tightly packed western conference. If the NBA playoffs played out like the western conference in the regular season, this whole analysis would be inept but unfortunately, that is not the case.
Round two. The NBA has given fans three boring sweeps. The only series even worth watching was Boston-Cleveland but sadly, that is over now and we can look forward to months of speculation on whether or not LeBron James is going to leave Cleveland.
The NHL, meanwhile, has provided a Cinderella eight-seed taking it to the defending champions on their home ice in a Game 7. Then the Philadelphia Flyers, propelled by the return of forward Simon Gagne, become the sixth team in NHL history to dig their way out of 3-0 series hole and force a Game 7 with the Boston Bruins. If that isn’t compelling, I don’t know what is. The Canucks-Blackhawks rematch was solid and the story lines revolving around Roberto Luongo’s playoff history are sure to be fired up again. The only non-compelling series was San Jose-Detroit which finished in five.
Why is it that the NHL playoffs require so many more questions and outcome possibilities than the NBA? If someone had predicted a month ago that in the NBA Conference Finals, at least three of the four teams would be Los Angeles, Boston and Orlando, 9 out of 10 people would’ve agreed. However, if someone had said that the Montreal Canadiens would take out the Penguins and Alex Ovechkin’s President’s Trophy winning Capitals, they’d have likely received some confused stares.
Moving forward, the NHL’s Eastern Conference will be represented by a (6), (7), or (8) seed in the Stanley Cup Finals. If the Flyers pull off a comeback only two prior teams in NHL history have completed (winning four straight games after facing a 3-0 series hole), the Eastern Conference Finals will be between a (7) and (8) seed.
This doesn’t even include the perplexing question of who will win the Hart Trophy Award for season MVP.
Sports fans don’t necessarily expect multiple seven game series per round, but three sweeps in the semifinal round where the competition is supposed to get tougher? That’s just dull television, unless of course your team was doing the sweeping.
Crazy stuff is going on in the National Hockey League. The NBA just hasn’t been able to keep up. If Gary Bettman and the rest of the marketing execs in Toronto get their act together and one, get the NHL back on ESPN and two, effectively market on national television beyond stills of Sidney Crosby, the rest of the nation might take notice of their exciting and compelling product.
Sources: NBA.com, NHL.com, ESPN.com