Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Playoffs is Love

mario lemieux stanley cup
The first round of the 2011 NHL Playoffs is underway and I couldn’t be happier. This is the best time of the year.

Hockey: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

- Sudden death overtime. The name itself is super cool.

- I love those role players who score big, unforgettable goals in overtime. Both Cory Cross and Gary Valk were pretty forgettable Maple Leafs during the late 90s/early 2000s, but over ten years later I still remember their goals that beat the Penguins and Senators respectively.

- Multiple overtimes! I love that point in the night when the game’s two or three overtimes deep and everyone’s getting bleary eyed. You begin to wish that somebody – ANYBODY – would score and finish the game.

- I love the goalie’s reaction to letting in an overtime goal. They either slump to the ice looking absolutely dejected or they immediately skate off the ice as fast as they can.

- I also love how all the analysts complain about Western games going into multiple overtimes. You know, as if getting paid to stay up super late and watch hockey is such a torture. Of course I’m thinking that when I’m warm and asleep in bed because I only care about the Western games up to a certain point. I just like knowing that people are doing things past midnight other than drugs.

- I just love that there’s multiple high quality hockey games on every night. It gets a little weird during the final when there are nights without hockey. I don’t really know what to do with myself as I wait for the next game.

- Shot blocking! In the regular season there is no way anyone is willingly getting in the way of a Zdeno Chara shot. There are flamingos everywhere on the ice. But in the playoffs? Andrei Kostitsyn is getting in the way! Of course he didn’t sprawl out, but it was only game 1. By the time game 7 rolls around bodies will be strewn all over the ice when Chara winds up.

- I love when multiple players sprawl out to block the same shot.

- Bob Cole! Sure he's getting older and makes tons of mistakes, but there is something comforting about his voice. Plus, he builds tension like no other announcer. I hope he announces games forever.

- The hitting! Suddenly everyone is Cam Neely.

- And because everyone is hitting, everyone is likely to end up looking like a battered piece of meat by the end of it. But it doesn’t matter, as long as they can walk, they’ll play.

- How no one even questions coming back to the ice, even after losing multiple teeth. Losing teeth in the playoffs is almost a rite of passage for a hockey player.

- When goalies get into that zone and there isn’t anything that can go past them. You see it starting to happen and you realize that the longer the game goes without a goal the less likely anything will beat them…ever.

- The fighting! There are none of those scripted goon-on-goon fights in the playoffs. Instead, the fights all develop out of passion and there is actual emotion involved. The best example of this is Iginla-Lecavalier in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. Sometimes I wish this was the only type of fighting in hockey.

- The Bell Centre. Yes, I’m actually putting this on the list. I hate the Habs, but the atmosphere in the Bell Centre is incredible. During the playoffs it becomes overwhelming. Say what you will about Montreal fans (and I repeatedly have), but they know how to make a hostile, intimidating place to play.

- Playoff beards! I’ve dedicated a yearly awards post to them, so they obviously make the list.

- When Gary Bettman gets booed before presenting the Stanley Cup.

- The look on the face of the team captain at the exact moment they get to lift the cup. Pure joy.

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