Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
January 24, 2021

I am not an NHL fan, but I really wish I was

By GREGORY MELICK | April 25, 2019

Tampa Bay was swept after having one of the best seasons in NHL history

As a National Basketball Association (NBA) fan watching the playoffs, I want there to be intrigue, upsets and games that go down to the wire, but unfortunately most of that does not come until the Conference Finals and NBA Finals. Meanwhile, I overhear all the drama of the National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs and wish I was a fan of the NHL so I could: 1) Enjoy the early round matchups and 2) Understand the history of what happened in the first round.

  The top team from both the Western and Eastern Conferences lost, and the Tampa Bay Lightning were supposed to be one of the best teams in the history of hockey. 

Apparently everyone basically handed them the Stanley Cup before the playoffs even started because during the regular season they won 62 games, tied for the most regular season wins in NHL history.

When faced with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round, a team that didn’t secure their playoff spot until the very end of the regular season, people thought that it would just be a warm-up for the Lightning.

The Lightning lived up to the expectations for all of one full period. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead at the first intermission of the first game, but from that point on everything fell apart. Over the course of the next 11 periods the Lightning were outscored by the Blue Jackets 19-5 and got swept.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, who won two Stanley Cups in the past three years, were also swept as the New York Islanders took down another Eastern Conference heavyweight.

In the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames were not as dominant as the Lightning during the regular season but still accumulated 50 wins to earn the No. 1 seed. They faced off against the 38-win Colorado Avalanche and started off stronger than the Lightning, taking care of business and winning 4-0 at home in the first game of the series.

The second game of the series is where things turned around, with the Avalanche pulling out a 3-2 overtime win. They took the momentum from that game and won the next one 6-2, scraping out a Game 4 victory in another overtime thriller to push the Flames to the brink of elimination. While hockey is the sport with the most 3-1 comebacks, the Flames could not pull off the comeback themselves, falling on the road in Game 5, 5-1.

To put this into perspective, these two upsets would be equivalent to the 2016, 73-9 Warriors and the LeBron, Kyrie and Kevin Love Cavaliers also losing in the first round the same year. The idea is that you would never see it in a million years in the NBA. There have only five instances of an eight seed beating a one seed in NBA history, so if both one seeds were to lose in the first round it would be a sign of the apocalypse.

In addition, five of the eight NHL first-round playoff series went at least six games. Meanwhile in the NBA, seven of the eight series were either 3-1 or 3-0, with the only exception being the young, talented Denver Nuggets against the experienced San Antonio Spurs led by Gregg Popovich, which was tied at two games going into Game 5.

In the end I think the NBA playoffs will start to pick up in the Conference Semifinals and will be great for the remainder of the playoffs, with so many top teams starting to face off. There are people who legitimately believe the Warriors are not unbeatable in a seven-game series (I am not one of them), and the Eastern Conference has four teams that I legitimately believe could win the Conference.

But wouldn’t it be even more riveting if every game could go either way, David actually had a chance against Goliath and every minute of play mattered?

Maybe next season when I no longer have to deal with homework I will begin my quest to be knowledgeable about hockey, starting with figuring out how to keep track of where the puck is during the course of the game.

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