What Sport has the Best Playoffs?
Providence College Investigates
Will Murphy ’23
The playoffs are one of the most exciting aspects of sports, but one league stands out with the most exciting playoffs: NCAA Men’s Basketball.
There is so much to love about the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament, appropriately dubbed “March Madness.” Whether one enjoys Cinderella stories, heroic individual performances, or powerhouses squaring off, there is something for everybody.
Take the University of Baltimore County Maryland, for example, ranked as the 166th best team in the country entering the tournament in 2018, after winning their conference tournament to secure a bid. They were able to knock off the one seed, the University of Virginia, who was ranked as the No. 2 overall team in the country heading into the tournament. They were the first 16 seed in the history of the tournament to defeat a one seed, instantly becoming the Cinderella story of the year.
Some Cinderella stories continue up until the final weekend of the tournament, as was the case with Butler University in 2011. Butler was able to notch upset after upset as an eight seed in the tournament to reach the final game, becoming only the second eight seed to reach the final game since the tournament began.
Another aspect of March Madness that makes it so exciting is the capacity for an individual player to carry their team to unlikely upsets and capture the heart of the country in the process. Jimmer Fredette was able to lead Brigham Young University to the Sweet Sixteen, with his electric shooting range.
Stephen Curry also led a small school from North Carolina, Davidson College, to the Elite Eight in 2008. Curry led the tournament in points per game averaging an incredible 32 points per game and drawing the adoration and support from fans across the nation.
Finally, the powerhouse matchups in the Elite Eight and Final Four add another layer to March Madness. In one of the most exciting championship games in the history of sports, Villanova University took on the University of North Carolina in 2016.
The final possessions of the game proved to be one of the most memorable moments in the sport of basketball. After Marcus Paige of UNC sank a nearly impossible double-clutched three-pointer to tie the game at 74, the game seemed destined for overtime. That was until Ryan Arcidiacono pitched the ball back to Kris Jenkins who nailed a buzzer-beater to win the National Championship, in one of the best finishes to a championship ever.
From beginning to end, March Madness provides the most thrilling moments out of any playoffs in sports.
Justin Bishop ’24
National Hockey League
Reaching the playoffs is the goal of every team in every sport, every season. To keep playing competitively after the regular season concludes is the only way to win a championship, and the hardest path to win a title out of any sport is, undoubtedly, hockey.
Few other sports have a playoffs composed of a taxing seven-game series that each team must go through in order to win their championship. In hockey, there are four rounds of this style of games, which means that a team must win 16 playoff games, no fewer, in order to lift the Stanley Cup. This is after playing a regular season of 82 games and having a top-three record out of a division of eight teams.
Basketball is the only other sport whose playoff season shares this concept, but hockey has proven to be a tougher sport to play than basketball. After each playoff series, one can only look at the injury report to see the unique circumstances that hockey players must fight through in order to win the cup.
Patrice Bergeron played games five, six, and seven of the 2013 Cup Final with a broken rib, torn rib cartilage, separated shoulder, and a pinhole puncture in his lung. Fans recognize this and appreciate the sacrifice of each player during their time playing.
The atmosphere at a regular-season hockey game is rivaled only by a college football game. If you are watching a playoff game, you know the stakes are high and players will put their whole bodies on the line in order to make a play for the advantage of their team.
Hockey fans recognize this at a different level than others and are the most passionate in sports. They increase the level of engagement in the playoffs by chanting louder, chanting more often, coordinating with each other specific chants targeted at particular players (most of the time it is the goaltender’s name).
The Nashville Predators have the most coordinated fans in the playoffs. The chant each fan participates in after a Predator goal is scored echoes throughout Bridgestone Arena, giving everyone chills down their spines. There are plenty of YouTube videos that showcase this specific chant among Predators fans.
Attending a hockey playoff game is an experience that cannot be described and can only be felt by going to one yourself. The energy, passion, and grit required by both a team in their fan base to lift the Stanley Cup makes it the greatest playoffs in all of sports.
PCI: The Las Vegas Golden Knights Will Win the Stanley Cup
By Ethan Ticehurst ’18
In their first season in the league, the Golden Knights will complete what is already one of the most shocking and historic seasons in the history of sports by kissing the Stanley Cup and become this year’s Stanley Cup Champions.
Expansion teams have historically begun their season on a weak note throughout the history of professional sports, across every sport. For maybe the first time ever, the world is experiencing an expansion team that has a chance to win a championship and it is exciting. This season is exactly what sports fans and the NHL dreamed about when the team was first announced.
After a strong regular season, which finished with a number one seed in the playoffs, it is not too hot of a take to pick the Golden Knights to win the Cup. Their only real competition in the Western Conference is the Nashville Predators, who went to the finals last year and finished with the most points in the West.
However, the Predators have seemed to be weaker so far in the playoffs, having lost a game to the Avalanche while the Golden Knights have completed the sweep against the Kings in the first round. The momentum is on the side of the Golden Knights and the skill level of these teams is close to even.
There is a side to sports that is often overlooked, and a strong emotional aspect to sports that is sometimes forgotten. Some of the best seasons in recent sports history have happened after an influential and, unfortunately, usually tragic event.
The Red Sox won the World Series in 2013 after the Boston Marathon bombing, the Yankees went to the World Series after 9/11, and the Houston Astros were champions after the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey.
Last year was a tragic year in Las Vegas, after the Mandalay Bay shooting caused the death of over 50 people. But, as it has commonly done in the past, tragedy tends to bring people together more than divide them, and the Golden Knights have been spurred on by the togetherness that the tragedy created.
Awful things have happened, but the Golden Knights have done their best to go out and represent the people of their city in the best that they can and by winning the Cup, they can bring something worth celebrating to Vegas.
PCI: The Boston Bruins Will Win the Stanley Cup
By Jeremy Perrigo ’18
The first round of the National Hockey League playoffs is underway, and as opponents have begun to compete in eight different best-of-seven series, it is starting to become clear as to which teams are be poised for a long postseason run.
Favorites heading into the first round of action ranged from the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators in the Western Conference, to the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning in the East. Each of these teams has lived up to expectations early on in the first round, as all four teams are leading their respective match-ups through three games.
However, one of these teams stands out among the rest.
No other team has managed to put forth an on-ice performance equal to that of the Boston Bruins. The Bruins won Games 1 and 2 of their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs by scores of 5-1 and 7-3 respectively.
In Game 2, 21-year-old Boston winger David Pastrnak recorded a point in six of his team’s seven goals, capping off the night with a hat trick and three assists.
Also in Game 2, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask made huge saves to keep the Maple Leafs from mounting a comeback, stopping 30 of 33 shots en route to victory.
While Rask’s save percentage of .917 and goals against average of 2.36 appear to be, well, average over three games, the quality of the big saves he does make at key times in games is a large part of the reason why Boston finds themselves up 2-1 in the series heading into Game 5 Thursday.
Toronto is notoriously a high-powered offensive team lead by generational talent Auston Matthews. It speaks volumes that it took Matthews until Game 3 to record his first point; a goal that ended up becoming a game-winner in the Maple Leafs’ 4-2 victory Monday night.
While the Bruins took a step back in their third meeting with the Leafs, it is important to notice that the other Stanley Cup favorites that rival Boston have struggled as well.
After winning Games 1 and 2 of their series, Winnipeg traveled to Minnesota only to drop Game 3 by a score of 6-2. The Jets had only allowed three goals to the Wild in their first two games.
Nashville defeated the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 and 5-4 at home before traveling to the Mile High City to lose 5-3 to an Avalanche team that only managed to qualify for the playoffs in their final game of the regular season.
After it looked as though Tampa Bay would cruise to an easy series win over the New Jersey Devils, taking the first two games of the series by scores of 5-2 and 5-3, the Eastern Conference Champions, the Lightning traveled to Newark only to surrender four third period goals en route to a 5-2 Devils win.
Boston arguably has the hardest match-up of any of the powerhouse teams mentioned above, yet they have managed to score in big numbers, while maintaining reliable goaltending at the other end of the ice.
If the Bruins are able to sustain a steady scoring pace, and at the same time remain sound on the back end, then they should be a shoe-in to win the Stanley Cup regardless of their opponent.
NHL Playoff Preview
By Jeremy Perrigo ’18
Christmas has befallen the National Hockey League, as the 2018 playoffs have officially arrived. For those who follow the NHL with any sort of consistency, April marks the beginning of two and a half months of pure joy and entertainment, as 16 of the league’s best teams embark on a grueling journey in a quest for the crowned jewel of the hockey world: The Stanley Cup.
Part of the great allure of the NHL playoffs is the fact that every series is played in the best-of-seven format, where teams can play no fewer than four games per round. The physical endurance required for this style of competition makes the on ice performance of its participants that much more impressive.
While other sports, such as basketball, conduct their postseasons in a similar seven-game format, the unpredictable nature of hockey allows for more variance in the results of each series. Therefore, it is not incredibly uncommon for an “underdog” team to beat an opponent that is heavily favored.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Kings, who entered the tournament as the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference, famously defeated first place Vancouver Canucks in round one, the second place St. Louis Blues in round two, and the third place Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes in round three. This was all before the Kings went on to defeat the New Jersey Devils in the final and claimed their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Just last season, the Nashville Predators, the 16th out of 16 teams to qualify for the playoffs, swept the Western Conference Champion Chicago Blackhawks in four games. Nashville would continue their run through St. Louis and Anaheim, where they would eventually fall to the Pittsburgh Penguins, two wins short of the Stanley Cup.
Nashville has returned with a vengeance this season, claiming the league’s Presidents Trophy for the team with the most points in the regular season at 117. This marks a dramatic turnaround for the Predators from a year ago, where they went from never having the opportunity for home ice advantage in the playoffs, to being guaranteed that privilege all the way through to the final, should they return again this year.
While the club from Music City is a favorite for many to win the Stanley Cup this season, formidable opponents such as the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and the divisional rival Winnipeg Jets may stand in their way.
While Tampa and Boston are both in the Eastern Conference and only have the potential of encountering Nashville in the final, a team like Winnipeg could present a roadblock as soon as the second round.
The Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild are the first round opponents for Nashville and Winnipeg, respectively. While both the Avalanche and Wild have had strong seasons in their own right, there are few that see either roster as capable of eliminating the Central Division powerhouses that have been their demise throughout the regular season. If these two matchups go the route of the statistician, a second round clash between the Predators and Jets is all but a lock.
Other notable series include the Kings and the new addition Vegas Golden Knights, who sarcastically tout themselves “proud member of the league’s original 31” teams. Vegas and L.A. have sized up well this season, each team winning two of four meetings, with an overtime victory each way.
Some doubt the Knight’s ability to hang with some of the NHL’s best (even after they clinched the Pacific Division title). Others see this uncertainty as just another opportunity to prove the hockey world wrong, as the team was widely expected to take up residence in the cellar of the NHL standings heading into its inaugural season.
Local interest will likely be focused on the Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who last met up in the postseason back in 2013, where Boston memorably mounted a comeback in the third period of game seven, erasing a 4-1 deficit and winning the series off a shot from Patrice Bergeron in overtime. However, the Maple Leafs facing the Bruins this time around is a much newer and faster model than the version remembered from five years ago, and Boston is sure to have their hands full.
For fans, any first round series you decide to watch has a high chance of being worth the time spent, as the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs are shaping up to be one of the most exciting displays of athletic prowess that hockey has to offer.