Joe Hanretty, Contributing Writer
What is better in the world of sports than the NHL and NBA playoffs? Not much. The drama and emotion, the skill and athleticism, and the mixture of heart-wrenching plays with exhilarating moments are unlike anything else. Hockey has an interesting dynamic because of the variability and uncertainty that comes with the unique playing surface. Basketball is a complex sport, but not to the same extent as hockey. In hockey, there can be 10 goals scored in one game and in the next, just one. Conversely, we all know that the NBA is a league of ridiculous scoring totals. However, as much as I personally prefer the NHL playoffs over the NBA playoffs in terms of excitement, they both deserve some face time.
There are 16 teams that enter both playoff schedules hoping to make a bid for a championship and a parade down their own city’s streets. I’ll do my best to cover these two exciting sports in this piece.
In the NBA, the Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers are all knotted up in a 2-2 series tie. This comes as a surprise because the Hawks are the eighth seed. But then again, being a low seed does seem to conjure up motivation in sports. Another surprise is that Dallas, another lower seed looking for an upset, gained a game advantage over the San Antonio Spurs. Also in the West are the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder, where the series is tied after the Thunder evened up the series last night. The third seed, the Toronto Raptors, are down one game to the “dinosaurs” from Brooklyn, so named by a Toronto newspaper. Lastly, we have the four-to-five series in both conferences where each lower seed has a game lead. In the West, the Portland Trailblazers are up two games to one on the Houston Rockets. And my hometown team, the Chicago Bulls, is trailing the Washington Wizards by a game.
Let’s move on to the NHL playoffs, where all hell is breaking lose. In the Eastern Conference, we already have two teams advancing to the next round: the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadians. Their adversaries, the Detroit Red Wings and the Tampa Bay Bolts, respectively, gave their best efforts but just could not counter the game plans of the series victors. The Penguins have regained a series lead over the pesky Columbus Blue Jackets, but there is plenty of fight left in the Jackets who came back in game four and rocked Marc-Andre Fluery’s confidence in that overtime game. Led by Ryan Johansen and James Wisniewski, the Jackets look to even it up and force a game seven.
The last Eastern series belongs to the once-bitter rivalry: The New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers were tied at two games, but the Rangers won Sunday afternoon to draw closer to advancing. In the Wild West, the Anaheim Ducks and your Dallas Stars have delivered quite a surprising series, in which the Stars have put up a respectable fight against the high-scoring Ducks. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin hope to keep the Stars’ hopes alive in game six Sunday night. In the series I predicted would go seven games, the LA Kings and the San Jose Sharks have nearly drawn it up, almost as if it were scripted. Down three games to none, the Kings have rallied to win two in a row and can keep their hopes alive this upcoming Monday. And, saving the best for last — my Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues: The series took a wild turn as the Blues had a 2-0 series lead but went on to let the Blackhawks win four straight games and now move on to play the winner of the Minnesota and Colorado battle.
We’ll see what unfolds this week as the first round ends for both sports, but we do know one thing for sure: It’s going to be extra hard to keep studies and school at the top of the to-do list.