With all but Boston-Tampa Bay having completed three games in the second round of the NHL playoffs, this has been a round to remember so far, with not one game that I can think of off the top of my head being a dud.
The second round of the NHL is the best round of the NHL Playoffs, and maybe in all of pro sports. For the NBA and NFL, the second round still feels like it has a few teams who have no business being there, or like they have no shot to win that round, let alone win it all.
Jets-Predators has been an insane show of speed and skill by both teams, and we can only hope we get the full seven out of this. Knights-Sharks has been insanely close with it feeling like one bounce on any given night is going to determine the winner. Pens-Caps, well you know the story of that already, and things got even more juicy with last night’s 4-3 come-from-behind win by the Capitals for a 2-1 lead. And Bruins-Lightning is sort of like Jets-Predators, except that everyone hates Boston and wants them to lose.
There’s a couple reasons why this year’s second round, and really the second round every year, is the best round.
Yes, the opening round has up to three or four games a night, and has the potential for upsets, so it feels a bit like the opening round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. And that the Stanley Cup Finals supposedly puts the two best teams left against each other in an epic battle for the best trophy in sports.
But the second round is where the cream starts to rise to the top.
Provided you don’t get an upset or a hot goalie, most of the trash teams like Colorado, Minnesota, and Philadelphia (thank God we don’t have to watch the Flyers not keep the puck out of their net anymore) are gone and you get down to the teams that everyone thought could realistically win the Cup back in October, not a handful of barely .500 teams who only got in because they had more loser points than another team.
Look at the eight teams that are left, with the exception of the Golden Knights, I would venture the other seven teams were many people’s picks to make it this far in the playoffs. I truly think these are the four best teams left in each league, and they’ve proven that all season long. And with two games each night, usually one early and one late, you get 5+ hours of insane hockey action with bonkers close games, hard hitting, and rivalries that only grow under this playoff format.
I know there are a lot of people who whine and are upset by this current playoff format because you get a situation like Nashville-Winnipeg, where the NHL’s two best regular season teams meet in the second round, but here’s my question: Would you rather reformat the playoffs and put them on opposite sides of the bracket so they could meet only the Stanley Cup, or have the divisional setup we have now, and essentially guarantee that we’re going to see that matchup? Same goes for Caps-Pens and Bruins-Lightning. I would rather see these teams get a chance to play each other than wonder who would actually win that series.
So yeah, the second round of the NHL Playoffs is where it’s at, and I can only hope that all four of the current match-ups go the full seven games.