This year, when torn between watching an NHL playoff game or an NBA playoff game being aired at the same time, the choice is really quite simple. The 2010 NHL playoffs blow away the NBA playoffs in every facet of sports.
In the 12 series that each sport has played to reach the conference finals, the NBA has been, quite frankly, boring. Only one NBA series went the full seven games—the first round matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks. Four sweeps have occurred, three of which came in the conference semifinals.
In contrast, the NHL has had no sweeps and four seven-game series with two coming in the conference semifinals. In addition, the NHL has had 15 overtime games, including a double overtime game and a triple overtime game. The NBA has had none.
As if the NBA could not get more uncompetitive, the average margin of victory in the first round was 10.7 points. The margin expanded to 14.7 in the conference semifinals with the Orlando Magic averaging a whopping 23.3-point margin of victory over the woeful Hawks. Double digit victories are far from entertaining to watch.
In case numbers aren’t convincing enough, there’s also the storybook aspect of sports.
Once again, the NHL trumps the NBA. Everybody loves the feel good story in sports. It’s why people cheer for Cinderella teams to pull off upsets during March Madness.
Hockey doesn’t have just one Cinderella story this year; it has two.
The No. 8 seeded Montreal Canadiens were trailing the best team in hockey the Washington Capitals 3–1 in their opening round series. Facing elimination each of the next three games, the Habs pulled off a victory each time to advance.
The story repeated itself against the No. 4 seeded Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champions, in the semifinals. Trailing 3–2 in the series, the Habs won the final two games to defeat the best team left in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, the No. 7 seeded Philadelphia Flyers needed a 2–1 shootout victory over the New York Rangers in the final regular season game to even make the playoffs. They took on the seemingly rock solid No. 2 seeded New Jersey Devils in the quarterfinals and crushed them to win the series 4–1.
And then they did the nearly impossible by becoming only the third NHL team to overcome both a 3–0 deficit in the series and a 3–0 deficit in Game 7 to defeat the No. 6 seeded Boston Bruins 4–3 in the game and series.
For the first time in history, a No. 7 and a No. 8 seed are playing in the conference finals. The 2010 NHL playoffs is history in the making.
But perhaps the underdog story isn’t appealing to some. On the flip side, the Western Conference has the No. 1 seed San Jose Sharks playing against the No. 2 seed Chicago Blackhawks. The two best teams in the west are battling it out for the right to be Goliath versus the east’s David.
Clearly, the NHL has it all—intrigue, close battles, historical implications, underdogs, and big dogs. All the NBA has is LeBron James rumors about where he will play next year. It seems the NBA sports writers and fans are far more interested in speculating about James instead of watching the rest of the playoffs.
No one can blame them. Watching Kobe Bryant win another ring with Phil Jackson? Yawn. The best story coming out of the NBA playoffs is the fact that the aging Boston Celtics are uniting for one final push toward an NBA title before Ray Allen becomes a free agent and breaks up the “Big Three”.
The NHL playoffs are the epitome of what sports is all about—competition, heart, resilience, and never giving up even down 3–0 in a series. The Atlanta Hawks should take some lessons from the Philadelphia Flyers.
So the next time you’re undecided between an NBA game or an NHL game, don’t be. The decision is obvious.