by Jules Gonsoulin
If you are a sports fan who’s also stressed out, with piles of work and finals just around the corner, odds are you watch SportsCenter to catch up on recent sporting news. If this sounds like you, odds are still that you had no idea the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs first round is in full swing.
In my first semester writing articles for this newspaper, I wrote an article critical of ESPN’s lopsided coverage, which focuses almost unanimously (this time of year) on basketball, particularly Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Shockingly, I don’t think the journalists in Bristol, Connecticut, took my article too seriously (or even read it) because the Warriors love has only increased this year. Not to take anything away from Golden State’s historic season, but the NHL’s Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars (among others) have played inspiring seasons to reach the playoffs, and the drama is only increasing. Allow me to fill you in on all the action you’re missing on SportsCenter.
The best team in hockey right now is the Washington Capitals. It secured the President’s Trophy weeks ago (most points in the NHL) and boasts a roster filled with stars such as Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and U.S. Olympic hero T.J. Oshie. Furthermore, the team’s defense is anchored by arguably the best goaltender in the league, Braden Holtby, who has amassed over 1,800 saves this season and recorded a stellar .922 save percentage. The Capitals currently hold a 2-0 series edge over the Philadelphia Flyers in this best-of-seven series.
Another interesting matchup in these early days of the playoffs is that of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers. This is a rematch of last year’s first round, which the Rangers claimed in seven games, after the Pens initially led the series 3-1. The competition between Pittsburgh’s stars Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, and goaltender Marc Andre Fleury against New York’s Eric Staal, Ryan Mcdonough, and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist treats fans to an intriguing matchup. Currently, the series is tied at 1-1, with the Penguins playing some of their best hockey in recent weeks, although they look forward to the return of center and right wing Evgeni Malkin.
Playoff hockey is undoubtedly more exciting than regular season play, as players put their bodies on the line to make crucial plays and dial up the intensity to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. Keep an eye on the Blues/Blackhawks and Stars/Wild series. As the Blackhawks look to derail the Blues’ stellar season and reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the second-straight year, the Stars will try to continue its momentum after being named the No. 1 overall seed in the Western Conference against a stingy Minnesota Wild defense.