The Columbus Blue Jackets will be closely watching all the action as they try to earn their first playoff berth in franchise history. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
The NHL’s home stretch has arrived and with it, the pulse of just about every hockey fan has been raised exponentially.
Say what you will about the league’s smoke-and-mirrors standings system, but you can’t deny it has led to major-league intrigue and super-high stakes for just about every team, right up until the last game of the regular season.
Indeed, virtually all games this week – including all three Monday night and all seven on Tuesday – feature at least one team that has serious interest in grabbing two points, either (a) to help sew up a playoff berth; (b) to secure home ice advantage; or (c) to nail down the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team.
The playoff race is sure to provide all fans with their share of chewed-down cuticles and added grey for their hair. However, the last couple weeks of the regular season offer a special benefit to the game’s most fervent followers.
Only season-long observers can summon the pain that comes with the remembrance of a shootout loss in November. Only those people can recall the joy of a January showdown wherein their team scored a last-minute goal that sent the game into overtime – and more importantly, gave their favorite franchise one extra point in the standings that turned out to be the difference between making and missing the playoffs.
That degree of perspective will never be there for the Johnny-Watch-Latelys of the hockey world. Those folks can take pride in saying, “playoff hockey is the only hockey worth watching,” all they want, but all they’re really demonstrating is a profound ignorance of context.
Contrary to that line of thinking, the NHL’s regular season does matter. Each point, each win, each overtime tie and shootout loss, matters a whole bunch. And those wise enough to understand that will be rewarded from now until June in a far more meaningful manner than the game’s attention-deficient fans.
PROTEAU BLOG MOVIE REVIEW CORNER AREA
I caught Knowing, Nicholas Cage’s latest foray into apocalypse porn, over the weekend. It easily was the loudest movie I’ve ever been unfortunate enough to pay money for (and then request a refund after it ended).
I had two fingers jammed into each of my ears for most of the film and it still made sitting in the Air Canada Centre’s press box for NHL games seem like a Marcel Marceau impersonators convention.
Turn it down, already! Also, you kids get off my lawn.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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