Charles Barkley was serious when he said he’s thankful for the NHL playoffs. The Inside the NBA panelist has been watching a lot of hockey this spring to make up for a mostly-chalk NBA playoffs. Earlier in the week, Barkley said “thank God for the NHL playoffs” on air after the Golden State Warriors sent the Utah Jazz fishing in the second round.
On Wednesday, Barkley appeared by phone on NHL Network to talk hockey. And he has been paying attention to the playoffs this season.
When host Michelle McMahon asked Barkley why he’s watching, his answer was as much a critique of the NBA as it was praise of hockey.
“Because anything can happen. Not just this year in the NBA, where we know the Warriors and Cavaliers are gonna play for the Finals, but most of the time, you know until you get deep in the [NBA] playoffs, the games are not gonna be that competitive. But it’s not that way in hockey.”
Barkley’s criticism is valid here. The Warriors and Cavaliers are on a collision course for a third straight NBA Finals showdown. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Penguins upset the Washington Capitals last night to knock the Presidents Trophy-winning squad out of the playoffs. It was just one of two Game 7s that aired back to back, and both were exciting and close all night.
“I’m glad that every game goes to overtime,” Barkley said. “Because there’s nothing more exciting than overtime hockey.”
That’s a bit of an oversight, but the NHL postseason has definitely provided more comebacks and overtime thrillers than the NBA has thus far. Most of the major attention on the NHL playoffs this year has been violent acts of aggression, but they’ve actually been quite intriguing at times.
The uncertainty with which its reached its Conference Finals has helped. The Western Conference Final features a matchup between an upstart Nashville Predators team led by an innovative defenseman in P.K. Subban, while the Anaheim Ducks are an older team that finally exorcised some Game 7 demons on Wednesday night to reach the Conference Final. Pittsburgh has overcome a number of injuries—including a Sidney Crosby concussion—and still managed to take down the snakebitten Capitals.
Barkley predicted that whoever won between the Penguins and Capitals, which means he’s all-in on Crosby and the Penguins to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions. It’s not a bad pick, and proves he’s paying attention: the Penguins might be the favorite to win it all these days.