One of the biggest arguments against an elimination-style playoff in Division I-A football is that allowing more teams to compete for the national championship devalues the regular season. It’s also one of the best arguments–for that sport, anyway. That wouldn’t fly with the NHL, whose regular season is so worthless that you could start the playoffs in October with a really big bracket that pulled the “season” into mid-April and the product would be better off. Because the Stanley Cup Playoffs kick ass.
And I hate saying that, because Gary Bettman has really burned every hardcore hockey fan they ever had. After the lockout, the cancellation of the 2005 season, the changing of the home-team-wears-white rule, realignment, renaming the divisions, overexpansion, their hypocritical position on fighting, ridiculous contracts, and the constant whoring of the game to the fairweather American, the only thing that really remains intact from the Ziegler era is the race to Lord Stanley’s Cup. It’s best-of-seven, and if the game’s tied at regulation, next goal wins.
It’s that simple, sudden-death premise that makes the playoffs so much better than the regular season. And you bet your ass it is sudden. Ask Chris Osgood, who let the game-winner fly over his left shoulder just after the start of the third overtime in Game 2 of the Wings-Ducks conference semifinal yesterday. At one point, you’re there, waiting to see which side will prevail. Then you blink, and it’s over.