10 Reasons You Should Be Watching The NHL Playoffs

Above clockwise: Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer and Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand in Toronto / April Reimer and Elisha Cuthbert / Don Cherry and Ron MacLean during Hockey Night in Canada / The Penguins' Sidney Crosby takes a shot at the Ottawa net

The NHL Playoffs are far from over. In fact, the excitement on the ice has only just begun! Sad your team didn’t make the playoffs? Here are 10 reasons to keep watching and find out which NHL team takes home the coveted Stanley Cup in June.

4 Canadian teams made the playoffs:

Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa all came off strong seasons and appeared as legitimate playoff contenders in 2013. It’s been seven years since four Canadian squads have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and for every Canuck puck fan sick of seeing teams in Tampa Bay and Phoenix steal that spring spotlight, 2013 ushered in a return to the glory days of the NHL.

The Chicago Blackhawks are unbelievable:

The 2013 Chicago Blackhawks won or went to overtime in their first 24 games (an NHL record), while backup goalie Ray Emery set an NHL goaltending record with 10 consecutive wins to start the season. Led by the NHL’s dynamic duo, captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Hawks have won the President’s Trophy thanks to highlight-reel goal after highlight-reel goal, leaving fans dumbstruck, records shattered, and every other team in the NHL quaking in their boots.

The Leafs made the playoffs:

Yes, the Leafs suffered a truly epic collapse, blowing a 4-1 lead against the heavily favoured Boston Bruins (really, what else did you expect?). After all the tears and heartache, one fact remains: the Leafs made the playoffs! It had been nine years since Toronto last made a post-season appearance, and to make up for it, the Leafs put up a hell of a fight. It was an epic, bone-crunching series that reminded Torontonians what playoff hockey was all about. With this strong team of talented young players, it’s safe to say the Toronto Maple Leafs will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

The Ottawa Senators got pesky:

The Senators had no business making the playoffs in 2013. They lost their top scorer, Jason Spezza, a few games in to the season. Weeks later, Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson suffered a horrendous on-ice accident, putting him out indefinitely. Then they proceeded to lose star Milan Michalek and red-hot goalie Craig Anderson to injury. By the end of February the Sens looked like a team of AHL call-ups destined to tank. But they didn’t. They fought back, winning overtime games and shootouts, scoring dirty goals whenever they could. Sneaking into the playoffs, the Senators not only beat the second-seeded Montreal Canadiens, but bloodied them in the process. As the only Canadian team to make the second round of the playoffs, the Senators are the definition of pesky (a moniker coined by Sens’ defenseman Erik Condra).

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh All-Stars:

Without a doubt, Crosby is the best player of his generation, and for good measure, Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero decided to sign a few more aces to the roster, including Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray. With a Voltron-esque super team of hockey stars, it’s hard to argue you aren’t looking at what might be one of the greatest NHL teams to ever assemble (on paper, at least). Anything short of a cup appearance would be a disappointment for this squad, so look for big things this year.

Vancouver collapsed:

For those living in B.C., our condolences. For every other hockey fan in Canada, let’s acknowledge the sense of glee and elation that came with witnessing the San Jose Sharks sweep the despised Vancouver Canucks in four games. For two years in a row, the Canucks haven’t made it past the first round of the playoffs, and it’s hard not to see this as a tipping point for the franchise. With two expensive goalies weighing on their salary cap, a crop of young players not likely to have much of an impact, and a current roster of stars past their prime and unable to play together when it counts, most would say the Canucks are in for a long, dark haul. Of course, after the years of whining, diving and finger biting scumbagery, not to mention blowing their chance to win the Stanley Cup in 2011, you might say the hockey gods had enough.

First round upsets:

The Ottawa Senators destroyed the Montreal Canadiens, winning the series 4-1. The San Jose Sharks crushed the higher-seeded Vancouver Canucks, sweeping them in four games. Detroit beat the second-best team in the West, the Anaheim Ducks (pretty impressive for a team that barely made the playoffs). The sixth-seeded New York Rangers took the red-hot Washington Capitals to the brink, before finally driving a stake in the Cap franchise with a 5-0 win in game seven. Heck, Toronto missed beating the heavily favoured Boston Bruins by one overtime goal, and that’s just the first round of the playoffs.

Classic celeb moments:

Hollywood stars aren’t strangers to the NHL playoffs (just ask Vince Vaughn!) But this year’s crop of celebrity cameos have been extra special. From the unforgettable exchange between Elisha Cuthbert and James Reimer’s fiancé, to Retta’s (a.k.a Donna from Parks and Recreation) “treat yo self” L.A. Kings’ jersey, this year’s playoffs have had a number of hilarious celeb moments. Not-so-hilarious? Matthew Perry’s cringe-inducing interview, where he was congratulated for the cancellation of his show, Go On.

Don Cherry:

Watching Don Cherry is akin to listening to your half-drunk mother-in-law rant about current affairs: most of it is unintelligible and sooner or later she’ll probably drop some old-timey racism. Already this year, Cherry’s said women shouldn’t be allowed in the locker room, insinuated Vancouver fans are rioting assholes (ok, that may be true), and ridiculed Daniel Alfredsson’s hair accessories. That, in a nutshell, is why he’s still on the air. For every jewel of hockey knowledge he shares, there is one big stupid slur just waiting to come out. He is the CBC’s shock-jock, only most of the time it’s unintentional, and usually it’s just offensive.

Because this never should have happened:

September passed and the lockout was in full swing. Then October. Then December. Then the Winter Classic was canceled. Ask any hockey fan and they’ll tell you they had given up on the season. But it came back, and came back big. From record-setting streaks, to amazing on-ice feats, 2013’s condensed 48-game schedule packed all the excitement of a regular NHL season into four short months, leading to a thrilling playoff-qualification race during the final days of April. The pace was relentless and the margin of error slim (sorry, Winnipeg), but boy, was it an exciting time to be a hockey fan.

Tags: Hockey, NHL

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