Playoff season is upon us, with the NHL and NBA playoffs starting this past weekend. After spending the entire weekend watching sports, an interesting debate came to mind: which sport’s playoff season is better?
Playoff set-up: Both leagues have 7-game series all the way through the finals. They’re both set-up as follows (for higher seeded team) 2 home games, 2 away, 1 home, 1 away, and game 7 at home, aka 2-2-1-1-1. This is a recent change from the 2-3-2 set-up of a few years ago. The purpose behind this change is to put added pressure on a home game 7, whereas previously, the top team had 2 home games to finish the job. I understand it, but I’m not crazy about it. Too much travel means too much time off between games. Both sports have a minimum of 1 day off between each game in a series. This makes the playoffs drawn out and take away some of the momentum built up from the game before. This is my biggest complaint about the playoffs of either sport. Verdict – PUSH
Chances of an upset – In the NBA playoffs, upsets are not that common. There are powerhouse teams at the top of each conference and then there are the rest. Just look at the lower seeded teams in the NBA playoffs right now and none of them really impress you. The Eastern Conference, for example, has 3 teams in the playoffs with a .500 record or lower. That is pathetic. The Western Conference was more competitive, with the 2nd seed and 8th seed separated by only 6 games, all with a win percentage of .585 or better. The only “upsets” that seem possible right now are the Mavericks over the Spurs or the Bulls over the Celtics. But this is not something to brag about when the top-seeded teams are hurt by injury to star players.
The NHL playoffs, on the other hand, often offer upsets. This year alone, there are 2 underdogs primed to make a run to the second round. The 8th-seeded Ducks hold a 2-0 lead over top-seeded San Jose, while the 7th-seeded Rangers are up 2-0 over 2nd-seed Washington. In the NHL, all it takes is a hot goalie to lead his team deep in the playoffs. In the NBA, over the drawn out schedule, talent usually wins out. Verdict – NHL
Excitement – The NBA is home to snoozers more often than edge-of-your-seat thrillers. This weekend, the launch of the first round, saw blowout wins by the Cavs, Hawks, Nuggets, Lakers, and Rockets. They were over by the third quarter. Sure, there were 2 games that went down to the wire, but these are not often occurrences for their playoffs. Add in the fact that if the game even resembles a close one, the trailing team fouls on every possession. The final 2 minutes of a game can take a half-hour. It ruins the watching experience beacuse not only are there stoppages in play, its coupled with poor free throw shooting and commercials.
The NHL by nature is a sport that leads to close games. Even a score of 3-1 is not safe, because all it takes is a powerplay goal and then anything can happen. Even if there is a blowout, such as the Bruins domination of the Habs in game 2, it’s still exciting because of all the hard hitting. A fight could break out at anytime, which makes you want to keep watching (see Bruins-Canadiens, game 2, Milan Lucic). Verdict – NHL
So which has sport has the better playoff season? It’s easily the NHL. While both sports drag their playoff season out for way too long, the NHL has what the NBA doesn’t: excitement. Every game is close and anything can happen to turn the game in the favor of the other team. Add in the excitement of a fight breaking out and the NHL wins, hands down! (check out Lucic starting a fight in a 5-1 victory on Saturday)