Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sports: NHL (Stanley Cup Playoffs - First Round)

Last year was the first year that I followed hockey somewhat closely but I had always kept my eye on the Stanley Cup playoffs. This year I watched hockey off and on throughout the season following three teams as they all made it into the playoffs. I'm excited to see how the series plays out as it has already gotten underway. The reigning champs are back in it but the runner-up from last year's finals is a top seed this year. I'll make a few predictions but I really have no idea how these games will play out. 

Eastern Conference
Tampa Bay Lightning vs New Jersey Devils

The Lightning come into this series as a top seed in the East. They were around the top all season long but only made it to the top spot by one point. They will face the wild card New Jersey Devils who I don't imagine will put up much of a fight, having also just made it into the playoffs by one point. I've got Tampa taking this series and moving only to the next round before elimination. They already took the first game 5-2. The Lightning took the second game at home 5-3 but the Devils defended their home 5-2 in game three. Tampa took the next game 3-1 to go up 3-1 in the series.  The Tampa Bay Lightning take the final game and the series with a 3-1 win.
Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs
The Bruins nearly had the top seed but came up short by one point. I think that they will be able to capitalize on their impressive performance and make it to the conference championship but they didn't have a great record in April. The Toronto Maple Leafs shouldn't give them too much trouble in this series and may only take one game or two. The Bruins already took the first game 5-1

Washington Capitals vs Columbus Blue Jackets
The only upset I'm predicting is because I'm a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets and have followed their decent season since the start of it. The Washington Capitals were one of my picks for last year so I'm used to seeing their inability to move forward in the playoffs. Surprisingly, the Blue Jackets took the first game with an exciting overtime goal to win 4-3.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Philadelphia Flyers
The Pittsburgh Penguins are returning for their third shot at the title in three years. The reigning champions had a pretty decent and have grown better near the end of the year to have one of the best records going into the series. They face their interstate rivals the Philadelphia Flyers who have struggled somewhat this season. The Penguins had a resounding win in the first with a shutout score of 7-0. The Flyers bounced back in the second game to win 5-1.

Western Conference
Nashville Predators vs Colorado Avalanche
The Nashville Predators are one of my favorite teams and my pick to win it all. Starting out as a much lower seed last year, the Predators made a run to the finals. This year they have snagged the top seed so their path to the finals should be easier. It won't be but their chances are returning are high. The Colorado Avalanche won't just roll over for the Predators and have something to prove as the underdog. The Predators took down the Avalanche 5-2 in the first game and 5-4 in the second. Back Colorado, the Avalanche rallied back with a 5-3 win but the Predators moved one win away with an away victory 3-2. Colorado survived in Nashville with two goals in the third to win 2-1. Nashville finished off the series with a solid 5-0 win. 

Winnipeg Jets vs Minnesota Wild
The Winnipeg Jets used to be the Atlanta Thrashers long ago so that's my biggest motivation for picking them, plus they're favored. The Minnesota Wild have been pretty good but missed some games so I don't think they'll be pushing on to the next round. The Jets beat the Wild 3-2 and then 4-1 in game two. The Wild took a game 6-2  but the Jets bounced back with two more shutout wins 2-0 and 5-0. Minnesota loses its coach while Winnipeg heads to the next round against Nashville.

Las Vegas Golden Knights vs Los Angeles Kings
The newest team to the NHL, the Las Vegas Golden Knights have had a charmed season. They've risen to the top of their division and have the players to take them far into the playoffs. The Los Angeles Kings find themselves the rivals of this new team and the underdog in their first series. The Golden Knights should be challenging the Predators for the Western Conference championship. The Golden Knights shutout the Kings and won 1-0 and then took an overtime win 2-1. Vegas took the next two games 3-2 and 1-0 to sweep the series.  

Anaheim Ducks vs San Jose Sharks
I don't get a lot of chances to watch these teams during the season because of the time difference but I've picked up some solid play in the West. I think the Anaheim Ducks should win but I probably won't get to watch many of their matches. The San Jose Sharks used to be my go-to pick but I'm not sure they'll make it out of this series. The Sharks shutout the Ducks 3-0 in the first game. San Jose continued their win streak with a 3-2 victory. Heading to home territory proved helpful as the Sharks crushed the Ducks 8-1. The Sharks swept the series and proved me wrong with a final 2-1 game four win. 

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