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Cold Hard Rants

Dissecting the Conference Finals Schedule

Admittedly, I sometimes get bored having to re-hash the same foibles of the NHL over and over and over again. Poor scheduling of early round playoff games manifested itself into a glorious display of incompetence with last night’s two game sevens being played at the same time. In what has become sadly typical, the NHL blew an opportunity to showcase its sport as well as possible, instead driving the focus away from the action on the ice to the fact they couldn’t schedule the games in a better manner. As our loyal readers well know, this has been the soap box in which I have been harping for a very long time, and last night was pleased to be joined by such Illuminati as ESPN writer Bill Simmons, in criticising, questioning, and lamenting the NHL’s incompetence.

In all honesty, I was prepared to move on from this topic. I really was. I was expecting that there is no way they could screw up the scheduling of the Conference Finals, especially as there are only two series occurring, and they can simply play them on opposite nights. Game 1 followed by game 2, with one day in between games. Sounds simple enough, and then this is what the NHL schedule makers came up with for the Conference Finals:

Game              Date                                       Matchup/Result

1                      Sunday, May 17, 2:30pm et                  Blackhawks at Red Wings

1                      Monday, May 18, 7pm et                     Hurricanes at Penguins

2                      Tuesday, May 19, 7pm et                     Blackhawks at Red Wings

2                      Thursday, May 21, 7pm et                    Hurricanes at Penguins

3                      Friday, May 22, 8pm et                        Red Wings at Blackhawks

3                      Saturday, May 23, 7:30pm et               Penguins at Hurricanes

4                      Sunday, May 24, 3pm et                      Red Wings at Blackhawks

4                      Tuesday, May 26, 7:30pm et                Penguins at Hurricanes

*5                    Wednesday, May 27, 7:30pm et           Blackhawks at Red Wings

5                      Friday, May 29, 7:30pm et                   Hurricanes at Penguins

*6                    Saturday, May 30, 8pm et                    Red Wings at Blackhawks

6                      Sunday, May 31, 7:30pm et                  Penguins at Hurricanes

*7                    Monday, June 1, 7:30pm et                  Blackhawks at Red Wings

7                      Tuesday, June 2, 7:30pm et                  Hurricanes at Penguins

When I saw this schedule unveiled, my eyes went cross-eyed, my tongue got tied, and I went even woozier than I normally am. From what I understood, the NHL’s logic in their early round scheduling, and their willingness to overlap games, is that lengthy breaks between games is anathema to the NHL playoffs, as the “warrior” aspect of the playoffs is what entices fans the most. I don’t necessarily disagree with that in principle, but given that TV exposure is the ticket to success it’s a passe policy that needs to go the way of the do-do bird.

Consider my surprise then, when abruptly, randomly, and nonsensically they abandon this policy come the Conference finals. Someone explain to me, why Detroit who took seven full games to defeat Anaheim deserves 2 full days off? In a logical world, in which I think I live, shouldn’t that series start on Saturday night, a night which is synonymous with hockey, much like the NFL and Sunday? This way, the Blackhawks get their rightful advantage for having finished off their opponent quicker, and hockey fans get to watch hockey on the night they most expect to.

Moving along the path of incompetence (I feel like Dorothy, following the yellow brick road–or that awful Price is Right game of the same name), someone explain to me, please, why the Hurricanes and Penguins need two full days off between games one and two? Game one is Monday night, and game three isn’t until Thursday night. That means, for those of you following along at home, the NHL is going dark on Wednesday night. I repeat, there will be no playoff games on Wednesday night of next week. Who do they think they are? Broadway, with going dark on Monday nights? It’s mind boggling. Talk about killing off all of your momentum, and I for one, am curious as to the logic behind it, because certainly it isn’t a travel issue because they aren’t even leaving Pittsburgh!

Stupefyingly enough, the same thing happens twice more in this playoff round as there isn’t a game on Monday May 25 (due to the Penguins and Hurricanes getting an extra day off) and on Thursday May 28 when the Penguins and Hurricanes get yet another extra day off between games.  Honestly, please, someone tell me why the Penguins and Hurricanes who have been killing themselves for the past two playoff rounds playing every second night, all of a sudden get two full days off between games 3 and 4 and games 4 and 5?

Under no circumstances should the NHL be granting extra days off between games if it means that no playoff games will be played on those nights. The players expect to play every second night, especially in the playoffs. Does the rest undoubtedly do them some good? Of course. Who wanted extra rest after close to 100 regular season and playoff games? However, you cannot, under any circumstances, lose the momentum that playoffs create when fans expect you to be on the air every single night showcasing the best your sport has to offer. I suppose, if one needed to look for a silver lining, they could find solace in the fact that at least none of the games are scheduled for the same time. God bless the NHL schedule makers.

For Illegal Curve, I am Drew Mindell

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