NHL much more professional than NBA
April 03, 2018 3:00 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
Why would anyone dare wager on NBA basketball games with the rash of “tanking” by teams destined to miss the playoffs while there’s great value taking NHL hockey teams that demonstrate greater professionalism and continue to skate to the very end of its own marathon, 82-game schedule.
The media doesn’t bother ripping the NBA because they’re more worried about their own bottom line (aka, making money), while teams – I’m talking to you, Memphis Grizzlies – simply don’t try to win.
It’s a total sham – just make money-line parlays on the chalk. The NBA needs to find solutions to remedy this ugly situation. In hockey, the bottom-feeders continue to win games as massive underdogs on a regular basis.
The best example came last Thursday, when the Chicago Blackhawks proved “accountant-able” after both regular goalies failed to dress due to injuries.
A rookie out of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., got the start and a victory over playoff-bound Winnipeg. When he cramped up in the third period, a 36-year-old accountant who once played college hockey entered as the emergency goalie, stopping all seven Jets shots in a 6-2 decision at +150.
Last week, this column warned you about the rising Arizona Coyotes, which came to town to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights at +230. Other dogs are paying at +200 or better, like Vancouver did over Anaheim, so be careful parlaying all of those money-line favorites.
The final week
The Stanley Cup Playoff picture remains a muddy mess. Boston recently overtook Tampa Bay to determine the Atlantic Division winner, so Toronto doesn’t know which of the two they will meet in Round One.
Florida can still climb past New Jersey because they have an extra game to play, courtesy of a make-up game following a January snow-out. Meanwhile, Anaheim and Los Angeles fight for the No. 3 berth from the Pacific, leaving the loser to battle a pair of Central squads – St. Louis and Colorado – for two wild card berths. One of the four will be out.
One thing is 99 percent sure: A pair of clubs with extremely poor postseason histories will battle, meaning one will definitely reach Round Two.
Don’t bother with playoff history since both sides offer little positive chronicles.
Winnipeg, known in Manitoba as “Jets 2” following the loss of the original WHA franchise to Arizona then the relocation to town by the Atlanta Thrashers franchise – own zero playoff wins. No, not series wins, zero as in any single-game victories.
Atlanta once was swept by the N.Y. Rangers in four games; the Jets then went 0-for-4 against Anaheim in 2014-15.
Don’t laugh, Minnesota fans. You only have one significant playoff win in your 16 previous seasons. In 2014, in a series dominated by the home team (6-0), Wild winger Nino Niederreiter scored a Game 7 overtime goal to win in Colorado. The Wild were then swept by Chicago and the Blackhawks again eliminated Minnesota a year later.
The major difference between the clubs is physicality. Winnipeg can throw around its weight, while the Wild are considered a finesse outfit. And the results showed it. The Jets captured the first three head-to-head meetings this season, then lost Game 4 when playing in its third road game in four nights.
This time, Minnesota should be the tired team. They close with four contests on the West Coast, then travel to Canada for the first two games of the Central semifinal. Meanwhile, the Jets close at home with a pair of non-playoff squads – Calgary and Chicago.
Throw in better net play in 40-win goalie Connor Hellebuyck over the Wild’s Devan Dubnyk. If the Jets can shut down 40-goal scorer Eric Staal, this could be a quick series since Wild standout Zach Parise – who missed the first half of the season (back surgery) – has only 10 scores.
Pick: Winnipeg in 5.
Pacific: I am biased to “my” L.A. Kings, but the return of Jeff Carter from a near season-long injury has turned the offense around. He has 12 goals in 17 games entering last weekend, making the Kings – also the best and hottest penalty kill in the league – dangerous should they meet San Jose in the Pacific Division playoff.
Atlantic: Boston center Patrice Bergeron is back, igniting the Bruins power play… Is Tampa Bay “tanking” to intentionally meet Toronto in Round One?
Central: Why is Colorado not scoring? After posting consecutive 5-goal games against non-playoff teams, not teams set for Cup play, The Avs close with three on the road in California, then home with St. Louis. Goodbye, Avalanche.
Metro: Philadelphia owns the vast schedule advantage, playing all three of the division’s non-playoff squads.
In the Hunt
Defenseman Brad Hunt is the Vegas Golden Knights’ 2018 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy nominee, as selected by the Las Vegas chapter of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association (PHWA). The Masterton Trophy is given to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Hunt has recorded 18 points (3G, 15A) in 41 games for the Golden Knights to go with six penalty minutes. He had a career-high three points (1G, 2A) against Columbus on Jan. 23.