Last Sunday, a friend of mine invited a bunch of us to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
(Side note: that was the first time I’ve watched a full episode. I sat there and watched confused for an hour, but I can see why people are hyped about the last season. I want to catch up, but that’s going to be a lot of hours spent.)
Anyway, we got to talking about what we did that day. I brought up that I had watched Game 6 of the NHL first round series between the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights. (Go, Sharks! #TurnUpTheTank)
I was still pumped about the Sharks’ double overtime win to force Game 7. I said to them that even though hockey is not as popular as the other major sports, playoff hockey is the most exciting. The others looked at me as if I had just said the most stupid thing possible.
Hear me out.
Of course, postseason play is even more exciting in any sport. At any point, a game or a series can be turned upside down. At any moment, a play can be immortalized and a player can be made a legend.
Or if you root for the losing team, the refs got it wrong and your team was cheated. Right?
Case in point, in basketball, Damian Lillard’s three-point buzzer-beater from near half court to lift the Portland Trail Blazers over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Amazing.
Or in football, the New Orleans Saints getting burned on a blatant pass interference against the LA Rams in the NFC Championship game. Brutal.
Or in baseball, Madison Bumgarner’s dominant run throughout the entire 2014 postseason, including coming in as a reliever in Game 7 of the World Series, as the San Francisco Giants won their third championship in five years. Legend. (Go, Giants!)
All of those things will be talked about for years to come by fans who appreciate (or totally loathe) them most.
But my argument is that in those sports, there are lulls during the game where spectators can breathe easy even if just for a few minutes — a team has a substantial lead, slow pace of the game, etc.
Because hockey is fluid, there aren’t those lulls. You’re constantly on-edge. And even though this is said throughout sports, it’s especially true in hockey that no lead is safe.
My evidence? Game 7 between the Sharks and the Golden Knights on Tuesday. Full disclosure, I am a fan of the Sharks, so my opinion is not totally unbiased, but here it is.
To preface this, Vegas had a 3-1 series lead. San Jose scratched and clawed to force a Game 7. Then in Game 7, the Knights took a 3-0 lead and the Sharks looked all but dead in the water.
Then about halfway through the third period, Sharks captain and leading goal-scorer Joe Pavelski gets cross-checked on a faceoff by Knights’ Cody Eakin. As Pavelski is off-balance and falling back, he’s then pushed by another Knights player, Paul Stastny.
Off the second hit, Pavelski hits the ice head first. Knocked out and bleeding, he’s helped off the ice by teammates.
Vegas is penalized with a major, and the Sharks have a five-to-four man advantage for five minutes.
Down three goals and now without their captain, the Sharks miraculously score four goals within that five-minute power play to take a 4-3 lead late in the third period.
Just when it seems that the Sharks can ride this wave to the end of the game, Vegas evens the score at 4-4 just before the end of the period. Jonathan Marchessault scores the game-tying goal for the Knights.
Then in overtime, with less than two minutes left, the Sharks score to complete the comeback over Vegas. Barclay Goodrow gets one behind Vegas goalkeeper Marc-André Fleury, and the Sharks win to advance to the second round of the playoffs, 5-4.
To recap: down 3-1 in the series, facing a 3-0 deficit in Game 7, and then the captain goes down to injury. To overcome those odds is simply incredible.
Other crazy things that happened in the NHL first round:
- the Tampa Bay Lightning, the overall top-seed after having one of the most successful regular seasons in history, gets swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets
- the defending-champion Washington Capitals go down against the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games
- West top-seed Calgary Flames gets ousted by the Colorado Avalanche in five games
One more point about hockey: the fights are actually fights. You see guys swinging at each other, unlike the kind of yelling matches or flopping you sometimes see in other sports.
While the NBA playoffs are going on right now, and we’ve already seen some great moments, let’s be honest. We’re all just waiting until the NBA Finals because most people have already predetermined the Golden State Warriors will win (even though the LA Clippers are proving to be a tough out at the moment).
For those of you who believe hockey is boring, like my friends apparently, try watching a game or two. It is worth your while.
At the very least, you can kill some time in between basketball games or until the NBA Finals comes around.
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or email@example.com.