We often confuse “best” and “favorite” to mean the same thing. These qualifiers offer praise, but they are mutually exclusive to one another. For instance, Mad Men is the best show on television right now. It challenges you to think about television on an intellectual level you never knew existed before you begin watching it. The writing, character development, and structure are all otherworldly. However, Mad Men’s superiority doesn’t make it particularly enjoyable inasmuch as it’s simply compelling, and I certainly wouldn’t call it my FAVORITE show to watch on a weekly basis.
The NHL currently suffers from this paradox. The league will never overtake the NFL in popularity. I get that. But it’s difficult to make the argument that there’s a better postseason in sports than what the NHL currently offers. The players throw their bodies in front of shots and fight one another on a regular basis. The refs generally manage to stay out of the way. The viewing experience is enhanced by limited commercial breaks. Best of all, while the outcome feels so arbitrary (one random bounce could mean the difference between winning and losing), hockey has a strange way of rewarding the better team over the course of a seven game series.
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The overtime thriller in Game 1 of the 34th playoff installment in the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry embodied all of this awesomeness for three reasons:
1. The Perfect Villain: PK Subban is wonderfully loathsome. Just an incredible adversary. And the dude wasted no time establishing himself Thursday night, either – overtly punching Reilly Smith in the opening moments of Game 1. The feisty defenseman then capped off his night with two power-play goals, including the game-winner in overtime. With all due respect to Terrell Suggs, LeBron James, and A-Rod, he’s public enemy No. 1 for Boston sports fans right now … and it’s not even close.
2. Competing Styles: Why was the Broncos-Seahawks 43-8 Super Bowl so interesting? Because it reminded us that substance beats flash. Always. In this series, there’s a finesse team and a physical team. Watching these sports ethos play out is fascinating, and for Bruins fans, it’s gratifying to root for the team that prides itself on being the bully. It’s dirty and brash and delightful to watch all at once.
3. Great Drama: The Bruins trailed most of Game 1, but they clearly outskated Montreal for large portions of the action. If it weren’t for Carey Price and the goal posts, we probably don’t see overtime. Regardless, is there any way this series doesn’t go seven games? And is there any way you don’t break at least one remote control in the next two weeks?
You knew all of that though. What’s really cool about this match-up is its purity. Let’s face it, after the Donald Sterling fiasco this week, sports fans needed this – a reminder of what sports are all about: two teams, wearing different colored sweaters, representing two cities, who will passionately hate one another for a few weeks, before calling it a day. None of this is logical, but it doesn’t have to be. Because sports, man.
Follow Ryan Hadfield on Twitter @Hadfield__