According to the widget on my iGoogle calendar today is the start of the NHL Playoffs! Like I really needed to be reminded, eh?
For those that don’t know I am a enthusiastic hockey fan. I love all forms of Hockey. Locally, I root for my local team the San Jose Sharks.
Not into Hockey yet? Here’s a quick primer for those that are not as big of fans.
The league currently has 30 teams. Half of them are in the Western Conference, the other half in the Eastern Conference. Yes, Detroit is actually in the West – go figure. Each Conference is divided up into three Divisions.
The Playoffs consist of the 8 top teams from the West and the 8 top teams from the East. Teams are seeded into brackets (see image below) and play a best of 7 series before moving on. The initial Seeding is based on the number of points a team accumulated over the course of the season. Seeds Number 1 to 3 are the teams that topped their division, the rest fall in line according to their points earned.
Points were earned like this: a Regulation Game is three periods of 20 minutes. A team would earn 2 points for a win. If there was a tie at the end of Regulation, each team would earn a point each and then play a short 5 minute overtime. If a team scored during that period they got an additional point. If they didn’t, they went into a shootout with alternating players taking shots at each goalie until one team beat the other. That was called an Shoot Out Win. I’ll stop right there because the rest just gets confusing.
In the Playoffs, the teams still play a Regulation Game of 3 periods of 20 minutes. If they are tied at the end of regulation, they start the Fourth Period. This is a sudden death, first person to score wins the game period. It’s a full 20 minutes long. If there’s still no winner, they do it all again and again and again and again until someone scores.
I found the Bracket below online here. Normally I’ll make my own. Just to confuse you a little more, after the first round the brackets are once again seeded. That means you’ll get to tear this one up and start again as soon as round one is over.
Each series is “Best of Seven”. That means the first team to reach 4 wins moves on. Do the math and you’ll see that 16 wins will get you a championship. Sounds easy right? Most players will play their entire career and never win the Cup.
The higher seeded team has the home rink advantage (if there is one). The first two games are played at their home, then the next two at the away. If there’s more needed to decide the series winner they’ll alternate back and forth. In the case of the San Jose Sharks, they are playing the higher seeded St. Luis Blues (#4 vs #5). The first two games are in St. Luis, followed by the next two in San Jose, then perhaps one in STL, then back to SJ, then back to STL. Easy enough?
That leads us to Game 7’s. Nothing is more exciting in hockey than a Game 7. That could happen in any series and it’s especially dramatic when it happens in the final. It’s all on the line, one final game, one winner. That exact thing happened last year when the Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks in a Game 7 final.
They are all playing for one thing. The Stanley Cup. The trophy dates back to 1888! There’s actually 3 of them: the Original bowl, the Authenticated Cup, and the Replica at the Hall of Fame. Players dream their whole life of touching the cup. Superstition dictates that they won’t unless they win Playoffs. It’s rare, but the public is sometimes allowed to touch the cup…
I’ve hoisted one over my head, touched the other one, and shot a video inside the vault of the Hockey Hall of Fame where the Original is kept. I’m a very very lucky guy!
Since the teams play each other over a series, there’s usually some “paybacks” or “sending a message” or other residual angst that happens between teams as the series progresses. The result is usually a much more ‘energetic’ game.
So that’s a quick primer of the playoffs as they begin. Go enjoy some of the best hockey of the year!