The NHL Playoffs are a time of year where results are often unpredictable and games can seem endless. During the regular season, several blowouts occur from teams needing some form of life. But the first couple of months are pretty indicative of which teams will be fighting for glory. In fact, 13 of the 16 teams who made it to the post season were in the top eight of their conference at the end of November.
There’s something in playoff hockey – though we’re well aware of it’s possibility – that strikes us either out of frustration or sudden disbelief. A sweep.
As a true hockey fan, and after many years of watching playoff hockey, you simply never want the games to end. The hope for an eternity of overtimes never depreciates. Maybe what’s most striking is that after an entire season of 40-plus victories, teams can’t manage to win just one of in a series of seven.
Some teams have no purpose being in the playoffs, squeaking in by only an inch. But sometimes those teams make for the most compelling story. Playoffs bring out the best in players as they are in high concentration mode with their intensity dial turned up to 12. It’s hard comprehend a matchup not being as evenly matched as we envisioned.
Two unpredicted sweeps transpired so far. Maybe if it weren’t for the fact it was the most difficult post season to forecast in recent years, the sweeps wouldn’t have been such a surprise. But hey, it’s the playoffs and anything can and will happen.
The Winnipeg Jets entered the playoffs for the first time since relocating to Winnipeg in 2011 and the first time since 1996, a 19-year void.
Energy from the raucous crowd including a white-out of fans at the MTS Centre could make anyone believe that at least a single win at home would take place. Many even picked the Jets to outlast the Anaheim Ducks and move on to round 2. My hockey wisdom had the Ducks winning in 5 just because I wanted to see the Jets have some playoff life. A playoff appearance in 19 years and a playoff win in 20 isn’t so bad, right?
It’s the honeymoon phase for the Jets fans. They’ll be expecting a series victory come next playoffs.
Okay, getting etched out in four straight in the first round is somewhat more expected than in the second. For instance, the Minnesota Wild came in to the first round with a fire lit and Devan Dubnyk making it all possible. It wasn’t that fire wasn’t still lit, but it was certainly more tame from round one. So yeah, the Wild cooled down a bit.
Was it because Suter and Dubnyk played too much? Was it because Brandon Saad opened the scoring only 15 seconds into the series? If they were gassed from their outing with St. Louis, it wasn’t as obvious as the series score makes it seem. They were able to rally and tie game one at three apiece only to have Teuvo Teravainen regain the Blackhawks’ lead in the final minute of the second period.
Other than game two, which happened to be a 3-goal differential, the Wild only lost by one. Minnesota was never out of the game on the scoresheet. Either they were keeping up with the Blackhawks or had an edge with hits, shots, etc. In a few cases, both teams had identical face-off wins, giveaways, takeaways, total shots on goal, and even blocked shots. As odd as it may seem, no game in the series was forced to extra time.
The Wild rallied back once again in game four as Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews said,“It got a little scary there, a little bit.” Chicago managed to hold on to a 4-3 victory to complete the sweep, but it came by giving up a 4-1 lead in the final three minutes.
Sweeps can also be a bittersweet scenario for some teams. The Blackhawks shouldn’t have any issues with extra rest since they always seem to be well prepared, it’s no secret teams can get complacent after completing a sweep and start off cold behind the 8-ball.
So it may be game three when we come to realize a sweep is inevitable- unless you’re Montreal or Ottawa. When teams just simply aren’t ready for the playoffs, their post-season demise is quick and painless. It can serve well as a motivator as it did for the Tampa Bay Lightning, wo almost exacted revenge on the Canadiens – the team that swept them in the first round of the 2014 Playoffs. Montreal’s desperation kept the series alive with lighting the the Lighting up 6-2 in game four to make the series 3-1.
It’s not that we don’t like sweeps or want to see them happen in certain circumstances, but they catch us off-guard none the less. Some of us just want to see the season last as long as possible.