NHL vs. NBA: A Playoff Comparison

Playoffs?! Yes, Mr. Mora, we’re gonna talk about playoffs. I’ve heard a little bit of a debate going on this spring in terms of which playoffs have been better: NHL or NBA. I’m here to settle this debate, once and for all. Take a read to see which playoffs I think have been better and why.

1. Game 7

Game 7 is easily one of the most exciting spectacles in sports, no matter what sport is being played. This alone can be an easy measure of how good a league’s playoffs are because it means extra games that we get to watch. Nobody likes to see a series go by in four games, because that’s no fun unless your team is on the winning side of it. To get straight to the point, the NBA has had five series go to a game 7, all of which happened in the first round, whereas the NHL gave us seven of these game 7s, including three in the conference semifinals and one that we just saw in the conference finals between the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks. In this first category, the NHL gets the win, but the NBA isn’t too far behind because their game 7s have been equally thrilling, we just haven’t seen as many.

Source: NY Times

Source: NY Times

2. Overtime

Right behind a game 7 in the thrill level is seeing an overtime battle between two teams. Having gone through an entire regulation, the players are exhausted, only to have to play even more. Again, cutting straight to the chase, the NHL outmatched the NBA with 23 overtime games against nine overtime games, respectively. Now some might argue that it’s much easier for a hockey game to be tied at the end of regulation because of the low, infrequent scoring that doesn’t separate teams by many points. I agree with all of those folks and counter with the point that overtime in hockey is still that much more exciting that it doesn’t even matter. If they had the same number of overtime games, I’d still give the edge to the NHL because of one factor: sudden death. Hockey overtime can end at anytime without any warning, which leaves fans hanging on the edge of their seats the entire period.

Source: GuardianLV

Source: GuardianLV

3. Predictability/Upsets

Unless it’s your team being upset, most fans are excited to see the underdog come through every once in a while. It makes the series’ that much more exciting when there’s a team still in the race that nobody was expecting to win even a single game. We’ve seen it happen in the past, but some years there are few anomalies, which don’t make it as exciting. In the first round of each playoffs, both the NBA and NHL had three upsets (here I define an upset as the lower seed beating  a higher seed). However, after that the NHL had four more upsets and the NBA only had one (the Miami Heat over the Indiana Pacers, which most wouldn’t even consider an upset). Because of this, we have an NBA Finals matchup that most could’ve seen coming. We all expected one of the top two teams from each conference to make it there, but it’s not surprising to see a rematch of last year’s Finals matchup. However, the NHL has two teams that have made great runs. Not a single 1 seed in any division won more than a single series and we’ve got a two and three seed matched up against each other to finish up the NHL season. Again, I’m gonna give the edge to the NHL in this one.

Source: LA Times

Source: LA Times

4. The Finals

In the NBA, we’ve got a rematch of last year’s Finals. King James and the defending champion Miami Heat vs. Tim Duncan and the dynasty-driven San Antonio Spurs. Most people would agree that they’re looking forward to seeing this again to see if LeBron can cement his legacy or if Duncan, Ginobli, and Parker can pull out yet another win with Gregg Popovich. Others are bored of seeing the same old Heat continue their winning ways, but the way I think about it is that we’re currently seeing history being made, no matter which team wins, and witnessing history always adds to the thrill factor. For the NHL, we’ve got our first championship matchup in any sport between a New York and Los Angeles team for the first time in several decades. The Kings have come from what some people consider insurmountable deficits, down 3-0 to the San Jose Sharks; and after giving up a 3-1 lead to the defending champion Blackhawks still managed to remain resilient with a Game 7 overtime win. For the New York Rangers, they have ridden the high of the amazing story of Dominic Moore behind the great play of Martin St. Louis and Henrik Lundqvist. They’re trying to hold Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time in over 20 years and it’s only four wins away from them. Each of these series has a plethora of thrilling headlines which make them equally as exciting for us fans, so I’m going to say it’s a draw between both leagues this time.


Source: Hinampang

Everyone’s got their own opinions, but I think it’s clear which one of these playoffs has been more exciting. I wasn’t intending it to be so lopsided, and both playoffs have had their highs and lows, but facts are facts. Certainly there are many more factors to consider and different ways to interpret these factors. It’s also much more thrilling if your team is still in the hunt as one of the last teams standing, but I’m going on the record and saying that the NHL playoffs have been better for the average fan trying to enjoy sports. Keep on sportsing, everyone, and enjoy the rest of the NHL and NBA playoffs.

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