The first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs is heading into the home stretch. Each year one can argue that the Conference quarter-finals provide the most excitement, entertainment and enthusiasm.

Sure if your team makes the Stanley Cup final, obviously that championship series will hold more weight, but there are a number of factors that make round one, the Sweet 16, the most compelling:

Multiple games each night: Not every game is a masterpiece, but there’s more than one to choose from which hold one’s interest; somewhat similar to what helps make the NFL successful on Sundays in the fall. Clicking the channel from one game to the next keeps the viewers on edge. In other words, the more drama the better.

Lure of the upset: With more opportunities in the opening round, the lower ranked teams have their best chance of defeating the higher seed. In all likelihood, there is at least one stunning surprise, if not more, but we can only guess which series will produce the “shocker.”

Pure hockey: Yes, the playoffs do not provide gimmicks like three point games and shootouts. They compete until there is a “true” winner for as long as it takes, not a skills competition. Real overtime, with no time limit, keeps us up late but the lost sleep is worth the extra entertainment value. The Predators and Blackhawks have already played two multiple overtime games. Usually, the most OT games occur in the first round.

The Pool: Even hockey pools are more fun in the opening round because all participants start at full strength. In other words, after the draft everyone thinks they have picked the best team, but those thoughts are quickly put to rest once teams and players are eliminated. If you have 12 players on your fantasy hockey pool team to start but are quickly down to four by round two, the disappointment leads to frustration and a possible lack of caring.

The weather: Hockey is still foremost on our mind in mid-April but five or six weeks later, there’s a lawn to cut, camps to seek, sunshine to bask in and a barbecue that awaits. The hotter the temperature outside, the cooler reception to hockey inside.

Element of surprise: Who had heard of Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (.950 save percentage) or Flames feisty forward Michael Ferland prior to the post-season? Darling has replaced Cory Crawford as the starter and Ferland has sent chills down the Canucks spine with his robust play (eight hits in both games three and four).

Unpredictability
: Last year, the Sharks had a major tank job against the Kings in the first round by becoming just the 4th NHL team to blow a 3-0 series lead? San Jose won’t experience that again this year, but some team, somewhere, will blow a significant lead that will cause heartbreak for some and jubilation for others.

Memories erased: Whether you are the top seed or the team that barely qualified as an eighth seed, the first round offers one important intangible-HOPE. Yes, the memories of the 82 regular season schedule and previous playoff failures are erased as teams begin 0-0.

More Canadian teams. Fans in this country want the Stanley Cup back in Canada after a 21 year absence (Montreal 1994). There are five teams that stood a chance following the regular season with that number trimmed to a couple by round two. Ideally, I believe the majority of the population would be pleased with six teams from the Great White North in the post-season. Of course, Toronto is the exception as its way more fun when the Leafs are out and the finger-pointing continues. (By the way, thank goodness Toronto did not win the Draft lottery).

More storylines
: The feistiness of the Ottawa-Montreal and Calgary-Vancouver series, plus playoff hockey in Winnipeg for the first time in 19 years are examples. The first round provides more geographical rivalries that again peek interest.

Be honest, once your favorite team(s) is eliminated, the passion to watch the other teams play lessons significantly. Its only human nature. This doesn’t mean, rounds two to four, aren’t worthy of one’s attention especially since there is more on the line the further a team advances. The Stanley Cup playoffs are an institution with many Canadians “catching the bug”, but there is still that mystique about the first round that offers a uniqueness that demands our special attention.


From the Quote Rack:

Nike has announced that they have signed Jameis Winston to a contract. Considering some of the former FSU star’s past decisions, are we sure that the slogan “Just Do It.” is the best idea?

Tim Tebow has signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Let’s hope Tim didn’t take that “City of Brotherly Love” nickname too seriously.

Contributor Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com

There is joy and merriment at the North Pole–with the Eagles’ signing of Tim Tebow. Santa Claus knows he won’t be booed alone in Philadelphia at Christmas.

The Packers are going to retire Brett Favre’s jersey number on Thanksgiving, but they’re leaving Christmas open in case he changes his mind again.

Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

Iconic Pittsburgh safety and shampoo pitchman, Troy Polamalu, announced his retirement. Yet to be decided — the hair apparent.

Josie Canseco,s daughter was arrested for DUI. I’m not saying her dad drove her to drinking, but he sure needled a lot of people.

Comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

Pete Rose has been invited to participate in the All Star Game festivities in Cincinnati this year. When asked if he was going to accept, he replied “You Bet”.

Stephen Harper was at the Winnipeg Jets game on Wednesday. Apparently the tickets were an anonymous gift, and the receipt for them had been previously reimbursed to a Mike Duffy.

Comedy writer TC Chong of Vancouver (http://alwaysfunny.com/)

And in case you missed it:

Bar Brutus of Montreal has created a version of the Stanley Cup made entirely of 20 pounds of Canadian bacon. So will this year’s winners be fitted for their championship rinds?

Comedy writer Marc Ragovin

Hartley Miller is the sports director and morning news anchor for 94.3 the Goat. His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com. Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to hmiller@thegoatrocks.ca
Follow him on twitter: @Hartley_Miller