This week, we saw some fantastic playoff hockey. For many fans who didn’t see the playoffs this year, the playoff teams hungry for the Stanley Cup put on a show.
What truly put the hockey world on notice was the fact that the 62-win Tampa Bay Lightning team, who also won the regular season’s President’s Trophy, came into a supposed blow-for-blow matchup against the Wild Card Columbus Blue Jackets. After putting up abysmal performances, the NHL saw its top-seeded Lightning lose to the Blue Jackets in just four games. However, Tampa Bay was not the only top team who suffered that fate.
In the Metropolitan Division, two juggernauts fought in the East: the up-and-coming surprise of the New York Islanders with 48 wins on the year against the perennial contenders led by Sidney Crosby, the 44-win club of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Unlike the Tampa Bay-Columbus series, this clash was much more entertaining. Unlike the Lightning, the Penguins put up a fight. But, unfortunately for a club who just two years ago was at the top of the world, they ended up getting swept out of the first round by the Islanders.
Meanwhile on the West Coast, the world watched as the Pacific Division’s top-seeded Calgary Flames fell to the Wild Card Colorado Avalanche, four games to one. What really set off this first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs was the amount of games played.
Besides the sweeps and the five-game wins, there were plenty of Game 6’s and 7’s forced in the first round. Teams that forced a Game 6 and 7 won their series, which included the second seed in the Pacific Division, the San Jose Sharks with a major five-goal comeback to beat the third-seeded Vegas Golden Knights in overtime for a thriller of a Game 7. This past Wednesday, another crazy Game 7 series finish took place between the Wild Card Carolina Hurricanes and the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Washington Capitals.Hockey fans watched the Capitals blow past the Carolina defense to put up a 2-0 lead, then a 3-1 lead. Astoundingly, the Hurricanes never gave up, and right winger Brock McGinn led the charge into a double overtime shocker, putting the game-winning goal in through Capitals goalie Braden Holtby’s net, sending the Hurricanes into the second round against the New York Islanders.
The Dallas Stars moved on after fending off the Nashville Predators four games to two, as well as the St. Louis Blues, who knocked off the Winnipeg Jets four games to two in their series victory. Lastly, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins finished their series in a not as entertaining Game 7 compared to the rest. Boston completely dismantled the Maple Leafs five goals to one, knocking Canada’s last team out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Looking into the second round, the matchups have been made. In the Pacific, it’s the Dallas Stars versus the St. Louis Blues and the San Jose Sharks versus the Colorado Avalanche. In the East, it’s the Columbus Blue Jackets versus the Boston Bruins and the Carolina Hurricanes versus the New York Islanders.
Coming out of the second round, I can predict that we’ll see a couple upsets, specifically with the Hurricanes and the Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference Finals. And in the West, I predict that we’ll see San Jose versus St. Louis in the Western Conference Finals. Knowing what we all witnessed in the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, I know we can all surely say it’s never been a better time for some playoff hockey.
Jeffrey Babcock is a second-year student majoring in communications. JB884128@wcupa.edu