The Breakdown: What the puck?
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A few weeks ago, I was at a mall down in Denver, and as I was perusing the second floor of Nordstrom (or maybe it was Macy’s or Dillard’s; I’m not sure), I had the urge to go to the first floor. So, I made my way to the escalators at the center of the store, where I ran into a roadblock: The escalator I required to get to the floor below had a piece of string, holding a paper sign, crossing its entry way – “Out of order.”
I didn’t get it. I still don’t. I mean, if an escalator stops working, doesn’t it just turn into a flight of stairs? How can it be unusable?
I guess my point here is that some things just don’t make sense.
For instance, there’s no way to explain how anyone, anywhere finds Julia Roberts attractive, or why we have two names – chick peas and garbanzo beans – for something that has less taste than like little rolled-up pieces of cardboard.
And, no matter how many people try to give me reasons, I will never understand how any sports fan doesn’t enjoy watching hockey. There’s just no excuse for it … except that you’ve never given it a real chance to win you over.
Don’t worry, though, because even if you don’t know the difference between a Bryzgalov and a blueline, you have your chance starting today with the beginning of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Really, it couldn’t come at a better time for sports fans, too, because for the first few nights of games, there isn’t anything to take attention away from it.
(Programming note: This of course means we need to stray away from ESPN. The Worldwide Leader treats the NHL about the same as former Bronco Travis Henry does his 10 children (from 10 different mothers). That is to say, ESPN only acknowledges it when it absolutely has to.)
I know, venturing into a new arena of fandom can be a bit overwhelming, but I’m here to help – or, at the very least, I’m here to give you some storylines to entice you to watch:
Matchups. Normally, the first round of playoffs (in any sport) can be a bit boring. Lopsided seeding, too many teams getting in – there usually aren’t many series that are interesting. This year’s NHL postseason is a whole different story. In both the East and West, the No. 1 seeds could legitimately lose their opening series and it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising. Top-seeded Vancouver takes on defending Cup champs Chicago in the first round. The Blackhawks have beaten the Canucks in the playoffs each of the last two years. Washington is No. 1 in the East and plays a frisky Rangers team starting tonight, a team with enough firepower to topple the Alex Ovechkin-led Captials. And, in between, every series could conceivably go to six or seven games (out of a possible seven).
Rivalries. Partly due to the frustrating scheduling of the regular season (teams within divisions play each other six times each) and partly due to the physicality of the sport, rivals in the NHL hate each other. I don’t mean they get into NBA chest-bumping matches or run up and slap each other Carmelo Anthony-style; I mean they want to destroy the other team every time they step on the ice. The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens can’t stand each other. Just the sight of the other team’s jerseys gets them foaming at the mouth. And they play each other in Round 1.
Sid the … um … skid. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby hasn’t played since getting a concussion at the beginning of January, but reports say he could get back on the ice pretty soon, most likely for the second round. Without the best player in the world, the Pens are still a threat to make a run. If they got him back? It’d change the whole playoff picture – and I mean that in a dramatic, Willis Reed-like comeback sort of way.
Speed, speed and more speed. Hockey is the fastest game on earth. Period. End of story. And today’s NHL is as fast as it’s ever been. Combine that with how close playoff games normally are (15 went to overtime in last year’s postseason), and you rarely get a clunker game; you’re not going to see a Butler-UConn performance.
Options. I mean, what else do we have to do? Go to the mall?
Sports editor Bryce Evans is pleased that, living in the mountains, he rarely comes in contact with escalators. Although, he frequently uses stairs.
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