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Thursday, May 19, 2022
<p>Nashville Predators right wing Craig Smith (left) shoots during the third period of game three in the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee.</p>

Nashville Predators right wing Craig Smith (left) shoots during the third period of game three in the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee.

If you’re anything like me, you’re sitting at home watching the NBA Finals and feeling a little bit disappointed. With the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers going a combined 24-1 in the first three rounds of the playoffs, this series between the two heavyweights was supposed to be an exciting one.

Or at least as exciting as two teams competing for a championship for a third straight time can be.

But as we’ve seen early on, the level of competitive balance in the matchup isn’t living up to expectations.

In fact, it has continued a trend evident in this year’s postseason that the NBA playoffs have simply become boring to watch. Since the tournament began, everyone had a general idea who would be playing for the NBA Title, and it made every other game leading up to the finals irrelevant.

Fortunately for us, it's not the only sport in its championship series at the moment.

Let’s face it, the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs have been the most exciting event in the world of professional sports this summer.

The NHL adds a sense of unpredictability to it. It’s pretty difficult to look at the field of 16 hockey teams and determine who will play for the Stanley Cup come June.

NBA Hall of Famer and current “NBA on TNT” analyst Charles Barkley agrees, saying in an interview with USA Today, “You have an idea who can win, but anything can happen. That's what fascinates me about the NHL playoffs.”

This years rendition proves that. It features a major underdog who got hot at the right time in the Nashville Predators and a high-caliber offensive juggernaut in the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

So far, it hasn’t disappointed, with the series tied at 2-2 and looking like it could fall either way. The Preds had a pretty tough road to the finals. They started the playoffs with a surprising sweep over the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks, and followed that up with back-to-back 4-2 series wins against the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks. Forward Filip Forsberg has led the way for Nashville with a team-leading nine goals, and veteran goaltender Pekka Rinne has had a postseason to remember.

It wasn’t easy for the Penguins, either. Pittsburgh defeated the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators in back-to-back game sevens in the second round and the Eastern Conference Finals, respectively.

So while both the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals are wrapping up and about to crown a new champion, the entertainment factor varies. The NBA has lost that sense of excitement when it created two super teams that everyone knew would be the final two standing.

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But where the NHL differs is that going in, no one knows what’s going to happen.

That’s what makes sports great and fun to watch.

Jake Dreilinger is assistant sports editor of the Alligator. His column appears frequently on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Contact him at jdreilinger@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @DreilingerJake.

Nashville Predators right wing Craig Smith (left) shoots during the third period of game three in the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee.

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