As I sit in my room, looking for something to watch on TV, I go switching back-and-forth between either the NBA or NHL Playoffs. During the last month, I witnessed four teams that were favored (supposedly) to win the Stanley Cup be eliminated, all in one round. Yet in the NBA Playoffs, every favored team to win it all, such as Milwaukee and Golden State, made it past the second round. However, as we enter the month of May, I have come to a firm realization: this year’s playoff hockey might be the best kind of playoffs.
When the NHL Playoffs started with the First Round on April 10th, no one would have expected to have the President’s Trophy-winning team, Tampa Bay Lightning, to be eliminated by a four-game sweep to a wild card team in the Columbus Blue Jackets.
No hockey fan also may not have expected the Western Conference’s #1 team in the Calgary Flames to be eliminated in five games to another wild card team, the Colorado Avalanche.
It’s not also often that all four of the NHL’s Division Champions all go down in the First Round. The last division champion to be eliminated were the defending Stanley Cup champion, Washington Capitals, losing in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Lately I may have seen at least four one-seeds go down to eighth-seeded teams in the first round, one would go on to the Stanley Cup (Los Angeles Kings in 2012).
With all first round elimination facts aside, here are a couple slight differences on why playoff hockey is more exhilarating for anyone.
How the hockey playoff is different from any other playoff season in sports is the amount of parity, or equal opportunity/chance for all eight teams in the Eastern and Western Conference brackets to have their shot at a championship. The parity in hockey within the last couple seasons have been more wide open since when the Hurricanes and the Anaheim Ducks have won their cups in back-to-back years.
In the NHL playoffs, every team that all qualified have a shot to win the Cup based on momentum, the depth of each team, and if a team matches up with another team’s strength.
Some teams may build their momentum off after winning one of their last couple games of the year just to get into the playoffs, just like what the Avalanche did just to clinch a wild-card berth with a 3-2 overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets.
A couple tweets show that this year’s hockey playoff viewer count has surprisingly went up, while the NBA Playoff viewership declined compared to last year.
The high viewership of the 2019 @NHL first-round playoffs can be summed up to a total audience delivery (TAD) average of 780,000 viewers, making it the most-watched in 7 years across multiple viewer platforms and in 25 years on cable alone.— GlobalSport Matters (@GlobalSportMtrs) April 29, 2019
Persons 2+ Viewership, 2019 vs 2018, All Networks Thru 4/25:— Michael Mulvihill (@mulvihill79) April 26, 2019
NCAA Tournament: +9%
CBB Reg Seas: +5%
NASCAR Cup: +3%
NHL Reg Seas: +2%
NHL Playoffs: +1%
NBA Reg Seas: -5%
NBA Playoffs: -19%
NHL Playoffs may not get the best ratings overall, like last year’s the NBA Conference Finals pairings of Houston-Golden State and Cleveland-Boston getting the highest number in viewership with over nine million viewers, but in my opinion, the hockey playoffs produces more excitement.
The excitement in which any team can be eliminated, no matter how good one team can really be. Such as the aforementioned Tampa Bay Lightning, who won 62 games and the President’s Trophy for best team overall.
Sure, everyone has their favorite type of playoff season based on what is their favorite professional sport. But personally, whether if the equal opportunity for every team to win a championship is there, or if playoff hockey may not get the most viewers, this year’s playoff hockey should be the one season every fan should pay attention to.