High flying playoff hockey is soaring to new heights | PostIndependent.com

High flying playoff hockey is soaring to new heights

Sports Geek
Jeff Sauer
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Jeff Sauer

This year’s quest for the Stanley Cup is shaping up to be a doozy.

With several top seeds departing early, double- and triple-overtime thrillers, high-scoring affairs and bone-rattling hits, just about every postseason game has been full of end-to-end, nonstop action, surpassing any pro sporting event currently taking place.

Teams that aren’t supposed to be on the grid at this time of year, like Western Conference semifinalists Nashville, Phoenix and Los Angeles are giving their fans some long overdue time in the hockey spotlight, while the perennial hockey hotbeds of Vancouver, Detroit and Boston sit idle, waiting for another shot next year.

“Win, or go golfing,” as hockey players like to say.

More and more fans are tuning in to watch playoff hockey instead of playoff basketball, and for good reason. In hockey, teams always play with a sense of urgency because no one is capable of breezing their way to the finals, unlike basketball, where the top seeds almost always advance through the first few rounds.

It’s hard to take your eyes off of the action in hockey right now because the pace of the game is lightning fast. Playoff basketball, on the other hand, does offer viewers the opportunity to go outside to mow the yard with two minutes to play and return just in time for the final shot, if you’re into multi-tasking.

Basketball’s biggest buzz kill can be summarized in three words: Too many timeouts.

Like Mitt Romney wearing a pair of mom jeans, it’s hard to watch right now.

Wake me up when they get to the finals.

Playoff hockey is also enjoying a huge resurgence in the TV ratings.

Some quick facts: Playoff viewership is up 37 percent over last year, primarily because NBC Sports is airing the entire schedule for the first time ever. The recent Capitals-Bruins Game 7 quarterfinal drew the highest viewership rating in 15 years for a nonfinal hockey game, and last year’s Game 7 Stanley Cup finale drew the second highest rating in the past 36 years.

It’s not just the games. NBC’s announcing and commentary have been superb as well.

If you haven’t tuned in yet, pick a game on the east coast and check out the best “edge of your seat” play-by-play announcer in the game – Mike Emrick.

The former New Jersey Devils announcer and current lead announcer for NBC calls the game brilliantly, with the perfect mix of knowledge and humor to go along with his rapturous style.

As for the games, there are plenty of subplots to follow, one of them the Washington Capital’s decision to reduce megastar Alex Ovechkin’s ice time significantly in both of their playoff series.

My take?

Dumb and dumber.

Ovie might not be the best two-way player to ever lace them up, but you don’t take away ice time from one of the game’s dominant players, ever. Nobody rolls four lines consistently in the playoffs, so I don’t buy into the coaches’ reasoning, no matter how they sugarcoat it.

And then there’s Claude Giroux of the Flyers, who is considered, in some circles, as the best of the best in the game right now. Knocking Penguins captain Sidney Crosby on his butt in front of his own bench and scoring a goal on your first shift of the game?


And just one of many reasons you should be following playoff hockey this spring.

Jeff Sauer is a longtime Western Slope resident and former Roaring Fork Valley resident. He can be reached at soprisjeff@yahoo.com.

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