Wednesday, April 14, 2010

All Pucked Up

In case you guys haven't seen it yet, we made The Big Lead this morning. Big happenings for The Couchwarmers indeed. Thanks are due to The Big Lead for being gracious enough to put us up, and even more importantly, to one YES Network producer who has obviously never seen Full Metal Jacket.

Also, I don't see how people can continue to sit on the Tiger side of the Phil-Tiger debate after reading things like this. Tiger cheats on his wife; Phil takes his family to Krispy Kreme. Just don't tell Phil that he accidentally dripped some glaze on his green jacket. He knows damn well what he did -- he's just saving it for later.

Those of you who know me well know that I'm a big hockey fan, specifically one who roots for the New York Rangers, and that I love talking about hockey. However, I'm well aware that the majority of readers here aren't big hockey fans. So here's what's going to happen: there will be one big post right now about why you should be watching the NHL playoffs, which start tonight. After that, I'll make some hockey references throughout the rest of the playoffs, but if you're not watching, I won't cram it down your throats.

[steps onto soapbox]

The argument that most people have is that hockey isn't fun to watch. There aren't enough goals. The game has too many intricacies for a casual fan to pick up on. If you're not a true fan, you don't really know what's going on out there, except that the puck should go into the net. To most people, they'll just summarize all of these thoughts by saying, "hockey is boring."

I hope that most of you most watched the Olympics a few months ago. If you watched the USA-Canada gold medal game, you understand that hockey can be incredibly exciting, if only because you had a strong rooting interest. My assumption is that people who aren't NHL fans without really giving it a chance aren't fans because they don't really have a team to root for. I agree, I'll put on regular season games where I don't have a rooting interest as background noise sometimes, but they don't really capture my interest the way Ranger games do.

This all changes when the playoffs come around. Come April, I'll watch any game, if only because once they playoffs begin, the intensity reaches a whole new level. Yes, it's definitely a clich├ęd thing to say, but there's a reason for this happening. When you're playing between 4 and 7 games in a row against the same team, in the only major sport where fighting is legal, you'll have some series where the two teams come to legitimately despise each other. It's even better when there are two top teams who play each other year after year, as the Red Wings and Avalanche did in the late 90's. When you keep playing the same hated team over and over again, things like this are bound to happen:



Whereas big upsets are rare in leagues like the NBA, they happen all the time in the NHL playoffs. Is there any doubt that the Lakers and Cavaliers are going to breeze through the first round of their series? In the past decade, four 1-seeds have lost in the first round of the NHL playoffs -- more than the total number that have lost in the first round in the history of the current NBA Playoffs system. And it's not only the first round where upsets happen. Last year's Eastern Conference Finals saw the fourth and the sixth seeds actually playing for a chance to go to the Stanley Cup Finals. In the NHL Playoffs, there are no easy series.

One of those teams in last year's Eastern Conference Finals was the Carolina Hurricanes. In the first round, they were losing 3-2 to the New Jersey Devils in game 7 with less than 2 minutes left, before they scored back-to-back goals to win the game, and the series. The next round saw them facing the Boston Bruins in another game 7, where they won in overtime. One bounce the other way in either of those series and the Hurricanes are going home.

And there's nothing quite as exciting as overtime playoff hockey. In the regular season, they play five minutes of overtime and then go to a shootout if no one has scored yet. In the playoffs, they play until someone scores. It's the equivalent of playing "next basket wins." Even if the game has to go to four overtimes. That's the equivalent of playing more than another whole game. And yes, I stayed up to watch that Stars-Canucks game in its entirety, even though it was a west coast game that started at 10PM out here. Listen, I'm not asking you to go this far, but there's a good chance that if you start watching, you're not going to want to go to bed until it's over.

Also, there's nothing quite like a good playoff beardDrew Gooden's got nothing on Mike Commodore.

Before, I said that many of you aren't watching because you don't have a rooting interest. For me, since the Rangers have been eliminated, I'm going to be rooting more against teams that I don't like than for teams. But what you need to do if you're not a fan is adopt a team. The only request I make is that you steer clear of the Devils, Flyers, and Penguins; their fans kill small children and have sex with animals. You could always put money on a team to win it all -- that's definitely a good, borderline legal (depending on your location) way to get into it. But I'm going to do something I really don't want to, but something that I think will help you get into hockey. I'm going to suggest that you root for the Washington Capitals, and here's why: 

The Capitals are one of the most exciting teams in the NHL. Alexander Ovechkin is, in my opinion, the most fun player to watch in the league. They score a lot of goals. Most importantly, the majority of their fans are bandwagon fans anyway, so you'll fit right in. Plus, if you start watching hockey, you'll need to take a side on the Crosby-Ovechkin debate, and Crosby is a bitch.

I hope you'll at least give these playoffs a chance. If nothing else, when there's nothing else on late, instead of watching Sportscenter for the second time, switch over to Versus and catch the end of the west coast game. And if you come across one that's in overtime, put down your remote and don't change the channel. You can thank me later.

[steps down from soapbox]

9 comments:

  1. I may kill the occasional small child, but I do NOT have sex with animals. Pure libel, Sam.

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  2. It's not the equivalent of playing "next basket wins." The next basket likely occurs in a single minute whereas a goal in hockey may not occur for another 20 minutes with all of the bizarrely named penalties. By then, I've already settled into my leather couch and hit the snooze button.

    Additionally, to the casual fan it also is extremely difficult to follow the puck and you often end up missing roughly half of the goals.

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  3. As someone who's coached several 11-year-old basketball "C-teams", I know what it's like to watch a "next basket wins" game where the next basket might not happen for 20 minutes. Daniel can back me up on this. And if you'd like me to explain exactly what "tripping" or "holding" is, I'd be more than happy to. I've got the time.

    If you can, give hockey a chance on a big HDTV. Even my grandmother can follow the puck on one of those things.

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  4. sad as it is to say I once employed a "next basket wins" strategy of letting Jordy Brenner throw up a three each trip down until we lost.....15s B team vs. Takajo....figured i was playing with house money at that point

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  5. PS.....HD has changed hockey for me completely...I am waiting for the 2nd period of Pens v. Sens right now

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  6. If you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will. I got spare time.

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  7. Best Advice to get into Hockey Try watching it if you can on a Canadian Feed, I live up in Ottawa and have watched the odd broadcast of hockey in the states and it is BEYOND boring i LOOOOVE hockey (eh!). But my god I recall watching a game and the commentators were talking about how a player on one of the teams does his warm ups and how he likes to shoot the puck and literally spoke for 10 minutes about this not even calling the plays and during this ten minutes a goal was scored and literally it went liek this " so he usually likes to his the synergy stick because of the velocity of his shot and oh they just scored to tie it up anyways so he uses the synergy because it has a great whip to it when shooting...." I sat there and was like :-0 are you serious, So I left the game on muted it and turned on a local radio station to hear the canadian announcers do the game.

    You learn a lot of knowledge about the game watching it on Canadian Channels so during playoff season if you can find a HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA feed whether streamed online (I think they have a free one on there website (CBC.ca/HNIC) or find it on your cable somehow but that will change your opinion on hockey.

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  8. Nice advice, Steve. There are definitely a lot of commentators down here who are absolute garbage. I know that when I was growing up, I'd love watching Canucks games on our Center Ice TV package, basically because Jim Hughson was calling the games. A good announcer can definitely make a game much more interesting.

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  9. @Sam

    Agreed, I know living up in Canada that most people up here look at Baseball as Americans do Hockey. I myself though am a huge baseball fan and play since I was 5 even competing for a Canadian team who travelled the states. And Baseball was the same way as hockey in that if you wanna really appreciate it that there is nothing like playoff caliber play.

    Here is the Link to watch the games free streamed online Canadian Style http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/hockeynightincanada/idesk/

    Buffalo vs Bruins 7pm (EST) and Canucks vs Kings 10pm (EST)


    ENJOY!

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