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May 09, 2017

The predictability of the NBA playoffs or the chaos of the Cup: Which you got?

Depending on your point of view, the NBA playoffs could be total perfection … or they could be total disaster. And the exact same goes for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

In the NBA, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers are totally dominating the opposition. In a grand total of 16 games over the first two rounds, the Warriors and Cavaliers have each run the table. The Cavaliers will await the winner of the Boston vs. Washington series to set up the Eastern Conference final, while the Warriors await the winner of the San Antonio vs. Houston series for the Western Conference final.

In other words, Houston, San Antonio, Boston or Washington will earn the title of “next” as the Cavaliers and Warriors storm their way back into the finals.

In the meantime, the Chicago Blackhawks, the odds-on favorites to win the Stanley Cup this season, were eliminated in the first round of the NHL playoffs. They were literally shut out of the spring, losing four straight games to the Nashville Predators. The Predators have now advanced to the Western Conference final and will meet either the upstart Edmonton Oilers or the Anaheim Ducks.

On the other side of the ledger, the Eastern Conference was ruled by the Washington Capitals, who had the most points during the regular season before they were dragged through a tumultuous first round by the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs, eventually surviving after six draining games.

The Capitals are now facing a dramatic seventh game at home on Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby. The series has already featured a nearly disastrous head injury suffered by Crosby who missed one game and before returning to the lineup the last two games, each won by the Caps to force the fateful final game.

In the other series, the Ottawa Senators take a 3-2 series lead into New York tonight against the Rangers – this despite the fact that the Senators had led in the series for a total of just over 20 minutes. No matter, a couple of games were sent into overtime with late goals, and the Senators only needed to have an extra goal when the overtime was ended.

So, which playoff scenario is better?

At this point, it is easy to dismiss the NBA’s playoffs as a boring connect-the-dots blueprint to the inevitable finals. However, there is something about seeing the best at their best. For those who truly appreciate the sport, the quality of play is remarkable, and there is every chance that this postseason is the one that will spring LeBron James over Michael Jordan as the greatest player to ever compete in the NBA.

On the other side, Golden State has gone from everybody’s favorite to a sort of villain following the addition of Kevin Durant as a free agent. After adding Durant the Warriors became a Northwest version of the Miami Heat. At least there was no “The Decision” TV show, but that doesn’t change the fact that the public looked it this as a case of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

The Cavs and Warriors have cruised through the playoffs and for those who love the sport of basketball, there is a beauty to a team playing to its standard of excellence.

On the flip side, you have the NHL running its usual chaos of a postseason. Not even halfway through the playoffs, there have been more than 20 games that have needed overtime and the odds-on favorites are playing golf around Chicago.

There have been the usual nasty injuries in the NHL that make the drama of Isaiah Thomas playing with a broken tooth for the Celtics look like a hangnail. But that’s the nature of the sport and these sort of crash-and-bang, upset-filled collisions happen every spring.

For hockey fans in Philadelphia, there could be the thrill of seeing the New York Rangers and either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Capitals sent packing. Nothing like Rangers sorrow or tears by Ovechkin or Crosby to make you temporarily forget the woes of the locals not making the party. On the other side, fans of the Sixers can watch and hope that the ingredients of young talent such as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will make the Sixers good enough to not only get into the playoffs, but attract some key free agents to make the team an NBA power.

One road or the other, there is plenty to choose from as the playoffs in either sport reach their penultimate levels. There is the drama of what will happen night-to-night in the crazy world of the Stanley Cup playoffs, while the clinics that take place in the NBA are more than worthy of attention.

The fanatics of either sport will argue one way or another about the values of either sport and the downsides of the other. However, with the Wells Fargo Center dark for another spring the suggestion here is to enjoy either tourney, the NBA for its precision and the NHL for its chaos.

It would have been nice to be part of either – even if it was to just feed the machine of another team on the way to a title.