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Charles Barkley's expertise is in the NBA but his rooting interest is in the NHL playoffs.
"Stanley Cup playoff hockey is the best thing going, and not just now," the TNT analyst told USA TODAY Sports. "I think overtime hockey is the most nerve-racking thing in the world. There's nothing to compare it to."
Barkley insists that running the playoff gantlet in the NHL is more difficult than in the NBA.
"Let me explain it like this: Every broadcaster and sportscaster in the world knew seven months ago that the Cavs and Warriors were to going to play for the championship," Barkley said. "There's not a single person who had the Nashville Predators playing for the Stanley Cup championship."
He said people knew the Penguins, the Predators' Stanley Cup Final opponent, had a chance to make a run, "but most people picked the Capitals to beat them. No one thought the Predators would sweep the Blackhawks."
"You have an idea who can win, but anything can happen," Barkley said. "That's what fascinates me about the NHL playoffs."
Barkley said he has watched almost every Stanley Cup playoff game for the last two months. During Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals, Barkley said he wanted to go back to the hotel to watch the rest of Game 7 between the Penguins and Ottawa Senators. A berth in the Stanley Cup Final was on the line, and he had bet on Ottawa.
The Stanley Cup Final started Monday, and he's rooting for the Predators because their franchise has never won. Barkley's also a fan of Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban.
"It's tough because one of my best friends is (Penguins assistant coach) Rick Tocchet," Barkley said.
Would Barkley like to be on a set with Jeremy Roenick and Mike Milbury someday to analyze a hockey game?
"I'm not that good," Barkley said. "J.R., Wayne Gretzky and Tocchet have taught me enough that I'm not a casual fan. But I'm not stupid enough to go into a booth and pretend that I know what's going on."
Sir Charles is selling himself short, according to Roenick. "He knows sports and he always has an opinion," Roenick said, laughing. "He would have no problem telling Mike and I what we don't know about the game."
If Barkley joined NBC for a game, Roenick said, "It would be the highest-rated hockey program of all time."
For complete coverage of Game 1, which ended too late for this edition, go to nhl.usatoday.com
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