By Krista Pirtle
With March Madness over, the intensity of postseason play seems to have extinguished until the NBA lights it up with playoffs in little more than a week.
To find fast-paced action with heated play, go to the ice.
The Stanley Cup playoffs have arrived as 16 of the best in the National Hockey League duel it out in a best-of-seven-game series to advance three rounds to the championship, spanning two months.
While seven games seems like too many initially, each one is do or die, containing multiple highlights for the Sportscenter Top 10, icy wipeouts for the Not Top 10 and plenty of fistfights.
Sports writer Paul Gallico describes hockey as “a fast body-contact game played by men with clubs in their hands and knives laced to their feet.”
While athletes in other sports get ejected for fighting during the game, hockey players receive merely a two-minute time out.
A five-on-four matchup is a common occurrence that results from a player being sent to the penalty box, commonly for using his stick for something other than its intended purpose.
If that is not enough and team is behind a goal within the final minutes of play, it can choose to pull its goalie and enter a sixth man to garnish a one-man advantage on the offensive end.
Weaving through defenders, balancing on ice and getting the puck past the goalie looks easier than it really is.
Imagine a basketball game where Quincy Acy has been given permission to goal tend. No one would make a shot unless Acy’s timing is off.
While the net is wider than the hoop and not 10 feet off the ground, scoring a goal is hard to come by, which could explain why the fans throw their hats onto the ice for three scored in a game by the same player for the hat trick.
When a goalie denies the attempt by covering the puck with his body, the referees do not turn to a possession arrow to see which team will receive the puck.
Two players face off to the right or left of the goal to win possession.
Such vigor shown on a simple moment to acquire possession does not die out as the clock moves on.
While a game consists of three periods of 20 minutes each, the line of five players for a team switches around every two minutes.
The hustle that is seen from short intervals of ice time increases during the playoffs.
Instead of focusing on playing hard for the entire period, these players can focus on skating their tails off for two minutes, increasing the tempo and desire on the ice.
Heart is something that seems to have diminished in the professional athletic world recently.
Football has taken a turn toward the individual player over the team, basketball is becoming more concerned with the number of digits on the paycheck rather than the scoreboard and baseball’s big money deals are tarnished by asterisks representing steroid use.
The heart of hockey, however, has not changed. Yes, the league is trying to make the game safer by controlling the amount of concussions, mostly given to Sidney Crosby, but those restrictions are only improving the game.
Wayne Gretzky’s work ethic not to skate solely to where the puck is but where it is going to be represents this sport’s ambitions to extend beyond mediocrity.
For example, the Philadelphia Flyers were down 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins heading into the final period in Tuesday’s playoff game.
In fewer than five minutes, the Flyers scored two goals to tie the game, sending it into sudden death.
From 9 feet out and only two and a half minutes deep into overtime, the Flyers found the back of the net to end the game.
In the Stanley Cup playoffs, anything can happen, especially when the teams are walking on water.