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When it comes to professional sports, the playoffs are what everybody strives toward.  There is no mistaking the intensity and excitement that comes with every playoff game and the closer you get to the end, the better the games get.  One thing that is almost universally agreed upon by fans who have watched the playoffs of each sport is that there is one postseason that is much more fun and exciting to watch than any of the others.  Of course I’m talking about the NHL Playoffs.

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Even folks who aren’t big hockey fans can appreciate how special the Stanley Cup Playoffs can be.  Every single game is full of guys who are giving 100 percent effort each time they touch the ice and it makes for some great playoff drama.  There are countless reasons why the NHL postseason is the best one around, but these are the top reasons why the Stanley Cup Playoffs are second to none.

History

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are by far the oldest in professional sports and that being the case, there is a lot of history behind both the games and the trophy.  The Stanley Cup has been the ultimate hockey prize since the late 1800’s and it has been crowning achievement in professional hockey since 1914.

Sudden Death Overtime

One thing that sets hockey playoff games apart from any other is sudden death overtime.  If a game is tied after sixty minutes it heads to overtime, which is essentially just a new game being started.  No matter how long it takes, a Stanley Cup Playoff game is not over until someone breaks the tie.  Games have lasted will into the following morning, sometimes keeping fans in the arena for six hours or more.  The intensity of sudden death combined with the heightened level of play that comes with the playoffs in general make these overtime battles some of the best hockey games you’ll ever see.

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Playoff Beards

A tradition that started in the early 1980’s by the New York Islanders’ dynasty teams, the playoff beard has become as synonymous with the NHL Playoffs as the Stanley Cup itself.  It’s truly one of the most recognizable and unique customs in sports and being that players can only grow a playoff beard if they actually make the playoffs, it makes the symbolism of growing one that much more special.

Underdogs

One of the great things about hockey’s postseason is that anyone who qualifies has a legitimate chance to win it all.  It’s happened time and time again where a team that squeaked into the playoffs at the end of the regular season catches fire and rides the wave all the way to the Stanley Cup.   A perfect example happened just a few years ago when the 2012 Los Angeles Kings snuck into the playoffs during the final weekend of the season.  The Kings became giant killers, taking out the top three seeds in the Western Conference while only losing just two games.  It was the first time that an eight seed had beaten the top three seeds in the conference to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.  Los Angeles completed the improbable run by beating the New Jersey Devils in six games to capture their first ever Stanley Cup.

Handshake Line

Another thing that is completely unique to the game of hockey is the handshake line.  After the conclusion of every playoff series the two teams line up at center ice and shanks hands with one another.  This is considered by many as the sport’s greatest tradition though there is no historical indication where it actually originated.  There is little argument that the intensity level of the NHL Playoffs is unmatched but when it’s all over the players gather at center ice and show mutual respect for each other as they all know that everyone has left everything they had on the ice.

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