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Thursday, October 06, 2022

Assuming you read the headline above this column, you know it is going to be about hockey. But I implore you to keep reading.

The NHL playoffs start this week - seriously, keep reading - and I would argue that the chase for Lord Stanley's Cup is the most exciting postseason in professional sports. I would like to humbly request you all tune in.

Playoff hockey is way better than playoff basketball for a number of reasons. In the NBA, you've got opening-round matchups between one seeds and eight seeds that should be sweeps almost every year. Other than Golden State over Dallas a few years back, the top seeds rarely fall in the first round.

In the NHL, top seeds lose all the time. Both three seeds lost in the first round last year, and two seasons before that, the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference went all the way to the finals.

In the NBA, last season's quarterfinals saw all eight top seeds advance in rather undramatic fashion. The same thing almost happened in 2006, with seven of the top eight teams moving to the second round.

But the best thing about the NHL playoffs compared to the NBA has to be the overtimes. Not only are overtimes way more common than in NBA playoffs, but they're infinitely more exciting.

When a basketball game goes into an extra period, points are scored frequently and games can be won by 10.

But in hockey, when the game is in overtime, every single shot is a potential game-winner. If you truly care about a team, each shot by its opponent strikes fear in your heart, and each shot by your team gets your legs ready to jump for joy.

Almost every hockey game is close. A 20-point lead in basketball heading into the fourth quarter is all but insurmountable. Same with a 5-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning or a three-touchdown advantage with 15 minutes left.

On the ice, a 3-0 lead at the onset of the third period is still a game. All it takes is three trips down the ice, and a comfortable lead becomes a nail-biter.

Now, I know your reaction to me telling you to watch hockey might be the same reaction I had two days ago when a colleague tried to convince me to get into Turkish Süper Lig soccer. But I'm not asking you to follow teams in another country. Unless you count Canada.

What will make the NHL playoffs more interesting is if you pick a team to cheer for. It doesn't matter who you choose. The Vancouver Canucks. The Philadelphia Flyers. The San Jose Sharks. If you were born and raised in Florida, the Panthers might sneak in this season.

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Just pick a team and follow them. And if you have a high-definition television, that's even better. No sport benefits more from high definition than hockey.

So, to summarize: Watch the NHL playoffs. It's an exhilarating experience if you just give it a try.

Alright, I did my best. You can stop reading now.

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