On Wednesday night the most exciting, most underrated and most heart attack-inducing (PLEASE LIKE MY SPORT) professional sports postseason begins: the NHL Playoffs. All eight series will be underway by Thursday, setting up an epic stretch of games that will have you channel-flipping in every possible direction in the hopes you don't miss Doc Emrick screaming "OFF THE PIPEEEEE...... with the shot." The NHL postseason's first round is a party unlike any other, but there's just one problem...my team's not invited.
For almost all of my actual-sports-fan-understanding life (since I was 12), my New York Rangers have been in the playoffs, something that's had its share of ups and downs (pretty much all downs). While I was a "fan" as a child, I don't remember much from the seven consecutive seasons the NYR missed the playoffs between 1997-2004, probably because they sucked and children don't like teams that suck. The point being, all I know as a Ranger fan is soul-crushing heartbreak in the playoffs, which is better than no playoffs at all.
But for just the second time in the last 14 years, the Rangers won't be in the postseason. As a fan, I understand I'm not alone in coming to the realization that this spring is going to be very different than any in the last decade. Chicago Blackhawks fans, Montreal Canadiens fans, Detroit Red Wings fans , St. Louis Blues fans and New York Islanders fans (LOL JK) are all in the same boat in 2018. It really hit me as I scanned the slate of games on Wednesday morning, knowing the Rangers won't be in on any of the fun.
While this stinks, it's actually a GREAT thing, a blessing in disguise, a silver lining, if you will. Allow me to explain, with a list of pros and cons, and let me tell ya, the pros heavily outweigh the cons.
PRO: No Crippling Anxiety
The ebbs and flows of playoff hockey are not for the faint of heart. God forbid your team's series goes seven games and you're living and dying every night from the "comfort" of your own couch/death chair. It's simply not healthy.
CON: No Post-Victory Euphoria
Few things top an OT victory in the playoffs. But honestly, it's not worth the 60-minutes contemplating why you ever started watching this sport that precede it.
PRO: Wide Open Schedule
If you're anything like me, which I assume most diehard hockey fans are, you scheduled your life around games 1-4 of your team's respective series (as well as Game 5, 6, and 7 if necessary). When your team's not in it, you're free of the stressful burden they provide on what was supposed to be a beautiful Saturday afternoon you'd normally be enjoying on the golf course instead of sitting in a pitch-black basement punching holes in the wall as they go 0-for-5 on the power play once again.
CON: Wide Open Schedule
All of the spring time things you somehow got out of going to a year ago are now in play. Yes, that includes the neighborhood BBQ that takes up your entire Sunday and requires hours of small talk with burger-flippin' Bill. And yes, it does include seeing the matinee showing of "Aladdin" on Broadway, which sucked and completely deviated from the film for which its named. I missed Game 2 of Rangers-Lightning for that trash? They cut Abu the monkey from the show entirely!! What an absolute disgrace.
PRO: No Sleep Deprivation
Remember when I said there's nothing better than an OT victory in the playoffs? How about an OT loss, one that ends on Wednesday morning at 12:30 a.m. just in time for you to maybe get in a full five hours before the alarm goes off? Oh, and the sound of your alarm bares a striking resemblance to the goal horn of the team that just ripped your heart out what felt like minutes ago and now you're crying again because you actually didn't sleep at all. Borderline torture.
CON: Missing something historic
When your team's not in it, it's hard to stay hyper-focused on each and every series. You're still a hockey fan, so you're going to try and watch as many games as you can, but you're not going to lose sleep over making plans the night of some random Game 7 between two teams you don't really care about. Until you see headlines the next day like "MOST INCREDIBLE GAME 7 IN NHL HISTORY" or "BRUINS SCORE THREE GOALS IN TWO MINUTES TO COMPLETE EPIC COMEBACK" or "HAHA, YOU MISSED THIS SHIT FOR A TINDER DATE!? WHAT A DESPERATE LOSER YOU ARE!!"
PRO: You can always make it interesting
No rooting interest you say? Nothing a little action can't fix. Go ahead, get a little frisky and throw $20 on the Devils in Tampa Bay on Thursday night. You just got your tax return and NJ has owned the Lightning this year. It's a lock.
CON: Goodbye tax return
OK, so the Devils lost 4-1 in Game 1. No big deal, Predators-Avalanche Game 1 is coming on at 9:30 and Nashville is dominant at home. Double down and you'll be fine. It's not chasing when you're playing with free money aaaaaaaaaand you're entire tax return is gone.
PRO: Summer bod is in fine form
You've worked hard since New Year's, finally sticking to your resolution. With your team out of the playoffs, you're ordering in way less and also not drinking a six pack on a Monday night and then running out and buying another six pack before OT starts. The only six pack your worried about is the one forming on your stomach am I right.
CON: No excuse to drink beer on Monday
Last year you were just relieving the tension and minimizing the stress of a must-win Game 4 on home ice. This year you might be an alcoholic.
PRO: Just enjoy the games
After 82 games of shitty, unenjoyable hockey that led to a playoff-less spring from your team, now you can kick back, maybe sip on a beer or two and just enjoy every other fanbase's pain, rather than live it. No anxiety, no stress. The only person losing their mind is Doc Emrick, and that's a beautiful thing.
CON: Your team sucks
Another year, another different team raising the cup. Your team is never winning. Accept it and move on.