Playoff elimination seems so final. Your team is done...there will be no Stanley Cup parade down main street this year.
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It's a fact of life for 8 teams after round 1. Then 4 more in round 2. Then 2...then 1...
Yeah, in this crazy cup chase only ONE team gets to raise the hardware at the end of the road...and the other 15 playoff teams get to think about "what might have been".
For fans of the teams that are eliminated, it poses an interesting question:
"Do I watch the rest of the playoffs or not?"
Any serious hockey fan will tell you that you "HAVE" to watch the rest of the playoffs. But for some fans the emotional wreckage left behind after playoff elimination is too much to get past.
On May 15, 1993 the Penguins lost to the New York Islanders in the second round of the playoffs. The Penguins had just completed their finest regular season ever and were the odds on favorite to win their THIRD cup in a row. The Islanders were believed, by many, to have no chance against the BACK TO BACK cup champions.
The Islanders, however, proved to be up to the task. Down 3 games to 2, they beat the Penguins in game 6 of the series.
In the decisive 7th game, the Penguins trailed late in the third. But like so many times before, they came back with a late flurry to score and force overtime. It was as if they were destined to win.
As the overtime began I remember thinking "How great is this? We are going to win this game and roll to another cup!"
At 5:16 of overtime, David Volek scored and the Islanders won. I, like so many Penguins fans on that day, was in complete disbelief.
There was a lot of emotional wreckage after that loss. It was tough, almost impossible, to watch the rest of the playoffs. I simply thought they were not worth watching because the team that SHOULD have won did not. I did manage to "tune in" again by the time the finals rolled around, but watching the Canadiens raise the cup that year was almost painful.
This year is different for me. The Pens were back in the playoffs after a half decade absence and although I was optimistic, I was also realistic. When they lost last night to the Senators to exit in the first round, 4 games to 1, I felt like it was OK. It would have been nice to have seen a better series...or made it to the second round, but it just was not meant to be.
So, for me, it will be easy to watch the rest of the playoffs. There are a lot of good teams out there in the EAST and the WEST. I have a new found respect for the Senators and I really like the Sabres. I think these two teams could provide a conference final that is one for the ages. The Sharks and Ducks look strong and the Flames are starting to heat up too. So overall, there's a lot of great hockey left to be played, by some fantastically entertaining teams.
But, for a lot of fans in other cities, this year's elimination might be too painful to get past. And for those fans I say "I know how you feel. I have been there."
But, if you can, do yourself a favor -- Once you team is done, take a deep breath, take off your team's cap and put on your NHL hat. Try to look at the bigger picture and enjoy the rest of the show. There are some great players in the NHL, doing some fantastic things in every game.
It would be a shame to miss what they have to offer on the road to crowning this year's champion.
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