By Matthew Cunha
I get it, hockey is the fourth sport in this country and that is not changing anytime soon. That’s the way it is. However, this year, there is no argument that can be made that the NBA’s edition of the playoffs have been better than the NHL playoffs. This year’s NBA playoffs has been the dictionary definition of predictable in leading to our third consecutive Cavs and Warriors match up in the Finals. Didn’t we know a year ago we were coming right back to this? The only difference from last year, besides the Warriors stomping on everybody and going 73-9, is that this year they added the second best player on the planet to their team. Well then.
Not only was this year’s NBA playoffs predictable, the series’ never once threw us off the scent of pure chalk. With the exception of #5 Utah over the #4 Clippers, (who didn’t have Blake Griffin), there was not one single upset. This year’s playoffs saw just 2 game 7’s and 43 out of the 75 playoff games have seen a team win by more than 10 points including the first two games of the NBA Finals. NBA geeks before the series told me all the bland basketball would be worth it for this finals rerun. I’m still waiting.
Cross over now to the NHL playoffs. Predictable? Not even close. The 8th seeded Nashville Predators swept the current NHL dynasty and top seeded Chicago Blackhawks in the first round en route to their first finals appearance in franchise history. The Predators have now forced a best of three vs last year’s champions and the face of hockey, Sidney Crosby. The upstart 6th seeded Ottawa Senators made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Edmonton Oilers came just one game away from a trip to the Western Conference Finals in their first playoff trip since 2006. Heck, even the 8th seeded Toronto Maple Leafs forced a game six vs the team with the best regular season record, the Washington Capitals.
Want close games? Yup, the NHL playoffs has those too! Out of 86 games in the playoffs, 51 of the games were one goal contests. That’s close to 60 percent of the games being decided by the slimmest of margins. 57 percent of games on the NBA side were decided by more than 10 points per contest. The NHL playoffs have seen 26 overtime games, which computes to 30 percent of the games overall. One knock on the NHL was that there was only 3 game 7’s, which is still more than the NBA.
Everything people love about sports has been showcased in the 2017 NHL playoffs. Upsets, unpredictable outcomes and great story lines. The common argument against what we have seen in the NHL playoffs is the best teams and best players aren’t in the finals where they should be. Well, 1 seeded Sidney Crosby and the Pens and 2 seeded Alex Ovechkin and the Caps faced off in an epic second round 7-game series. Pittsburgh is now 2 games away from a Cup.
The city of Nashville and their roaring fans have hardly been mentioned here, which seems borderline criminal after their own tremendous outpouring this spring. How can you not love seeing a raucous crowd cheering their 8th seeded team that is just two games away from hoisting the cup? While the Stanley Cup Finals are gridlocked 2-2, the current edition of the NBA Finals are one game away from a sweep, unless the NBA refs play the role of “Cavalier savior”. Case closed. NBA geeks, enjoy watching your finals. I will be busy watching something where I don’t know the outcome.
(Spoiler alert – The 2018 NBA Finals will also be the Cavs and the Warriors, ROUND 4.)
Matthew Cunha is a producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.