NHL Playoffs: View from Outside
It's always disappointing when your team doesn't make the playoffs and has to sit on the sidelines while others compete for the ultimate prize. However, an early exit does allow us as fans to look at the game from a different angle that we typically overlook while our team is in the thick of it. I'm not a sports better but I do enjoy making my own predictions/prognostications on games based on lines from Vegas. It's always amusing to see how the lines stack up, which team is the favorite and what hockey predictions various sites give us. When it comes to the Stanley Cup playoffs, I'm often amazed at just how much drama and tension unfolds over the course of the entire tournament. This year certainly hasn't been any different. We're not even completely through the first round and already I've found myself glued to the television, engulfed in the action as it unfolds through not just 60 minutes, but multiple overtime periods. For the unbiased, unattached fan, the overtime period during the playoffs is hockey nirvana. It could be well into the wee hours of the morning, yet there I sit, delaying sleep until I know the final outcome between two teams (in this case San Jose and LA) that I frankly have no positive feelings towards - such is the magic of the playoffs. It's more than disappointing that the Blues not only missed the playoffs, but were so distant from the top-8 that the final few weeks of the season were a wash. However, it has granted an opportunity to all of us faithful fans to embrace what has been a truly remarkable postseason - and that's through just one round. While no sane fan would agree with me, it can be beneficial to one's fandom to take in the playoffs every once in a while with absolutely no devotion or interest as to who wins. Granted, as a fan, you always want your team square in the thick of things, but once in a great while it can help your appreciation for the game if you can sit back, and watch the madness unfold without any attachment. Unfortunately, as a fan of the Blues, I've been able to enjoy emotion-free NHL playoffs a bit more often than I'd like (to say the least) but it has allowed me to enjoy each and every series rather than honing in on one I have personal interest with. When the Blues did climb back into the top-8 and found themselves swept away in the first round by Vancouver a couple years ago, while I did watch the rest of the postseason unfold, I viewed through anger-colored glasses. My attention was still stuck on where my team went wrong and how upsetting it was that after a huge climb back into the postseason, the Blues left the fun & games all too quickly. This lingering anger ruined any chance that I might enjoy the rest of the NHL postseason as I was too focused on when the Blues could take the ice again for redemption (redemption which never came, I'll add). Still, this is a message to those, like myself, that are stuck watching from the outside: enjoy it. When you're wrapped up in the thrills, chills, highs and lows, you often miss some of the other events taking place around you. With any luck, my team and the other teams on the outside will return to the playoffs soon enough and I'll once again have blinders on to every other series but the one involving my team. Until then, I might as well sit back and enjoy some fantastic entertainment. *** Writing this post and talking predictions, projections and prognostications got me thinking about ESPN's yearly predictions they release at the start of each season. For fun, I went and dug up their 2010-11 NHL Outlook just to see how well some of their experts performed. The results really aren't too surprising with some picks hitting and others missing. However, their selections for individual trophy selections are all over the map, which is fair given how hard they are to predict. Still, it's hard not to smile when seeing Jaroslav Halak's name penciled in by John Buccigross as the Vezina trophy winner.