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Boucher: The Inherent Masochism Of Sports Fandom

It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Even if your team isn’t in contention there’s nothing like an intense game 7 situation to quicken the pulse and leave you muttering expletives at the television screen. As the seconds ticked away in last night’s Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins game, a lot of people on social media seemed to be almost willing the Caps to score. If they could beat Pittsburgh they could get a multitude of monkeys off their backs. Except it wasn’t meant to be. The Capitals couldn’t bounce back and the defending champions are on to the Eastern Conference Final.

As the teams lined up for the traditional handshake line it was hard not to wonder: is making the playoffs always worth the pain? That was only the beginning of the questions that came to mind.

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 10: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins shake hands after the Penguins defeated the Capitals 2-0 in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on May 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

After all, only one team can win the ultimate prize. 15 teams are going to be disappointed. After the last few Lightning seasons would fans have been satisfied with a brief playoff foray? The gut reaction is yes. If you make it in you’ve got a chance to win. The Bolts managed to get on a roll at the end of the regular season. Unfortunately, it was too late at that point but what if they snuck in on the final wild card spot? Could they have truly contended with the line up they were icing?

Of course there’s always the chance that more guys would have gotten healthy. The possibility of a Steven Stamkos return hung over those final weeks like a specter. The captain likely would have pushed back to help his team in the playoffs. Would that have set back his recovery? Is it better that he gets several months to continue rehabbing.

Could the Syracuse Crunch players continue to succeed in the heightened playoff environment? Making the leap to the show is one thing. The playoffs are a completely different animal. Look back at the 2013-14 season. A young, highly skilled group of players were swept out of the first round by the Montreal Canadiens. Their resounding refrain was one of how heightened those games were. That’s something you only learn by being there.

These questions could just be instinct trying to ease the sting of not watching our hockey team playing at this time of year. Anything is possible. Look at what the Ottawa Senators have done. The risks are high but so is the reward.

We’ll pose a question to you. Is making the playoffs always worth the heartache and queasy game day stomachs?

Yeah… it is, isn’t it?

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