In sports, the regular season finish is rewarded with a high seed and sometimes a first round-bye. The top teams win most of the team, with a few upsets in between. However, the opposite is occurring in the NHL playoffs.
The Montreal Canadiens came into the year as an eight seed, needing to win in the final game to advance to the playoffs. The media and some fans quickly wrote them off. However, they not only defeated the President’s Cup winning Washington Capitals; but they also slipped past the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
The other team joining them in the Eastern conference finals will be another low seeded team. The sixth-seeded Boston Bruins and the seventh- seeded Philadelphia Flyers play in a game seven, a story in itself since Philadelphia has come back from a 3-0 deficit, including a win on the road, to force game seven.
Although the Western Conference playoffs has a No. 1 and No. 2 seed, the San Jose Sharks versus the Chicago Blackhawks, the Hawks struggled to get by the No. 7 seeded Nashville Predators, and the Sharks were nearly upset by the No. 8 seeded Colorado Avalanche.
If the upsets aren’t enough of a conundrum, the road teams appear to be winning more as well. The Blackhawks are 3-3 at home, but 5-1 on the road. We have had three game sevens and the road teams all won, the Canadiens twice.
Suddenly, the home field-advantage is no more, and the regular season is just as useless as Sergei Gonchar was on defense versus Montreal the other night. But, is this a bad thing for hockey? Do they want the top teams to advance easily?
Personally, I think the parity and all the upsets are great for the game, and the NHL should embrace them. The regular season is a grueling test for many of these teams. If you qualify for the playoffs, anything can happen as seen by the recent results.
So, fans in cities with teams who start slow can have hope until the end of the season. These same fans can now know their team has a legitimate chance of getting hot at the right time.
The NHL playoffs are like the NCAA tournament in college basketball. The season tells us who deserves the chance, and then anything can happen. The season doesn’t mean any less, but the seeding and advantage gives way to match ups and team consistency.
If anything, can you really complain about a Cinderella story and a possible 3-0 comeback in the same season? I know I’m not.
Check back to I Am Sportacus for more NHL thoughts, plus check out http://soicyblog.tumblr.com for some great NHL breakdowns and fantasy hockey analysis. Hey, Mike Schmidt did say Jaroslav Halak would be a target in the offseason due to his skill. Did any of you hear of him a month ago?