Mid-April to early June is quite the time for professional sports fans. Plenty of playoff hockey and basketball going on — literally, every day. And after watching all these playoff games, it begs this question:
It’s tough to answer such a loaded question, but let’s debate.
The best thing going for the NHL is continuous play; it rarely stops. For three 20-minute periods, the most talented hockey players on the planet fly up and down the ice, banging bodies, and trying to maintain control of a small, rubber puck while sweating bullets. Remember, these players are hustling on ice on super-sharp blades, sometimes skating backward faster than some people can run forward in sneakers. Just take a minute to think about how talented these NHL players are…amazing.
The new “blue-line camera” is annoying. Just ask St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko, who had two goals overturned in the 2016 playoffs due to a Coach’s Challenge for off-sides. In most of the off-sides Coach’s Challenge’s I’ve seen this postseason, the off-sides player in question seems to have his skate on the blue line; the scope is that minuscule. The “blue-line camera” is new this season, and it’s not cool. If a player is off-sides to the naked eye, then he’s off-sides. If no one noticed anything while the team entered the scoring zone prior to the goal being scored, then get a move on and drop the puck at center ice. However, these new expanded replays are being closely monitored by the Video Room honchos in Toronto — they have many angles we don’t have. They’re not going review crazy in the NHL, yet. Still don’t like the “blue-line camera,” please get rid of it so we can enjoy precious hockey goals that, prior to this year, never would have been questioned.
Fights. Sure, throwing punches is juvenile, but most hockey fans enjoy the fisticuffs. The Stanley Cup Playoffs don’t feature as many fights as the regular season — five minutes in the penalty box is too costly — but some skirmishes do break out among all the pressure and emotion. You want blood? You got it.
Most hockey fights are the consequence of a cheap shot after the whistle or a big, rough hit. Here’s a familiar situation: player carries puck through the neutral zone, head down, then gets lit up by a burly defense man. Hockey has it’s share of finesse and skill, but the players are the toughest athletes in professional sports.
Playoff beards. This year, the award for best playoff beard goes to either Brent Burns or Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks; the West Coast team is in its first Stanley Cup Finals in its 25-year history. Both Burns and Thornton have beastly beards; Thornton might get the nod for a touch of grey. But, for real, please shave your face.
Playoff overtime doesn’t end until the tie is broken. The game can end with a snap of a finger, or carry on for a very long time. The longer the overtime, the more nerve-wracking the game becomes, and it’s already quite nervy from the beginning of the first period. The longest overtime in the Stanley Cup era is six extra periods between Detroit and Montreal on March 24, 1936 — the game went a total of 176 minutes before Detroit severed the 0-0 tie. Personally, the best (and third-longest of all time) overtime playoff game I ever witnessed was Philadelphia versus Pittsburgh on May 4, 2000. The game went to five overtimes, and Philly’s Keith Primeau decided to call it a night around 2 a.m. with one of the sickest wrist shots in NHL history. By that point, all the players were spent, but Primeau put everything he had left into the game winner, which loudly clanked off the underside of the crossbar and into the net. Goodnight.
LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant. It has been fun watching these professionals at work as Cleveland waits to play either Golden State or Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals. The NBA used to have less nonsense and flopping, but these six All-Stars may be the best grouping of players that the league has ever had playing at the same time. It’s beyond entertaining.
Dunks: one-handed dunks; alley-oop dunks; two-handed hammer dunks; reverse dunks; and dunking in someone’s face. Yup.
How many timeouts can a basketball team call in the last two minutes of a close game? Always seems to be a lot. Timeout, commercial, timeout, commercial, etc. Sure, coaches need to draw up important plays under the gun, but when a game starts at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on a weeknight and the last two minutes take forever…frustrating.
Beating the red light with a buzzer-beater. From Reggie Miller against the Nets in 2002, to Damian Lillard against the Rockets in 2014, and from Ralph Sampson against the Lakers in 1986, to Michael Jordan hitting “The Shot” in 1989 against the Cavaliers, the buzzer-beater may be the most exciting shot in sports. Instant replay has taken away some of the lore, but the red light shows no mercy.
Trash talk and nut shots. Just ask LeBron James, who yelled, “You’re new album sucks,” to Drake in Toronto after a thunderous alley-oop slam, or Draymond Green, who kicked Steven Adams in the balls. The NBA has lots of drama; the league is full of attention-grubbing whores.
Did this help settle the debate? Probably not. Enjoy the playoffs.