Thrilling First Round Leaves NHL Viewers Amped for Round Two

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Thrilling First Round Leaves NHL Viewers Amped for Round Two

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The 2019 NHL playoffs are only one round deep, yet there’s been enough stories and exciting moments to last throughout the ploffs. From the monumental collapse of the record-setting Lightning to the gritty game 7s between Boston/Toronto and San Jose/Vegas, the 2019 season is wrapping up in thrilling fashion. Only eight teams remain, and a wild couple of weeks should start heating up even more.

 

Eastern Conference

CBJ/TBL: Let’s start off with the big one. The one that absolutely nobody saw coming. Nobody. The 8th seeded Columbus Blue Jackets: a team that barely squeezed into the playoffs, with only two points over Montreal, took down freaking Tampa. The Tampa Bay Lightning: a team that put up a whopping 128 points in the regular season, got the 2nd best record of all time, and was a lock for at least the Conference Finals… got swept in the first round. This is nothing short of an absolute embarrassment for Tampa and a showing of amazing heart and grit for Columbus. The Blue Jackets are having a storyline of a season, and Matt Duchene, Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and company will face Boston in round 2. Still in shock from this one, but I have to add a side note: Artemi Panarin’s handshake with Nikita Kucherov, the NHL’s leading scorer and Panarin’s friend, is absolutely savage and shows the energy and happiness that the whole city of Columbus is running with.

NYI/PIT: The other early sweep of the first round, pulled off by the Islanders, is nothing short of amazing too. The Islanders were thought by most to be a bottom tier team after longtime captain and superstar John Tavares headed to Toronto to return home. Although nobody reached Tavares-level numbers, the team’s scoring was more spread out this year, as Barzal, Bailey, Nelson, and Eberle each recorded 50+ point seasons. These guys showed up BIG TIME in the ploffs, too. Eberle’s been straight filthy, trailing only Mark Stone in goals after the first round. He’s scored in each of the 4 wins. Vezina finalist Robin freaking Lehner has still been otherworldly, and the Isles continue to prove everybody wrong into the next round.

 

BOS/TOR: This was the one series that, before happening, everyone had going seven games. That’s exactly what happened, and just like in 2013 and 2018 in which they played in the first round, Boston won in seven. Although looking sluggish and slow for some games, this Boston team has regained its identity as a playoff powerhouse with a lot of experience and talent. Their top line of Bergy, Marchy, and Pasta somewhat underperformed in the first round, but Boston’s third and fourth lines came up huge with Nordstrom, Johansson, and Kuraly scoring all of Boston’s game 7 goals. Nazem Kadri screwed his team over big time with his dirty play yet again. The Leafs will be back in the playoffs soon, and the super young team gained some more valuable experience this year. (Should’ve stayed in Long Island, JT.)

 

WSH/CAR: Anddddd it happened again. A Capitals playoff choke. Last year they stunned us all and actually made it past round 2, eventually hoisting the Stanley Cup in one of the best cup raises of all time to a player who deserved it more than anyone. Ovi earned that, but don’t let their miracle 2018 season fool you. The Capitals are notorious for choking in the playoffs and have once again started summer early. This year it comes to one of the most fun, young, and exciting teams in the league: the Carolina Hurricanes. Aho, Niederreiter, Mrazek, and company got the “Bunch of Jerks” to the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, and then to beat the reigning champ in game 7, double OT? Pure heart and a lot of energy for this group, and it is sure to be an exciting battle between them and the fellow underdog New York Islanders next round.

 

Western Conference

CGY/COL: Another huge upset. The Avs, who also barely snuck into the race, toppled the 107-point Flames in 5 games. Nathan MacKinnon is a god, Cale Makar has lived up to the hype, Mikko Rantanen is tied for 2nd in points, and everything is clicking in the Rocky Mountains. After losing game 1, Colorado won 4 straight to cap off the series in 5. The Avs’ top line is still running through opponents and lighting up the scoresheet. Both Mackinnon and Rantanen had filthy overtime snipes for wins this series, yet they go on to face a team who’s had plenty of playoff OT success (Well, at least this year. So far.) in the Sharks. The well rested Avalanche head into California Friday with a chance to take an early series lead.

 

STL/WPG: To be honest, this was the series I was most confused about going into the playoffs. I didn’t know who to pick, but the hotter team wins this time around. St Louis has been on a tear since the latter part of the regular season, and the team was able to pull out a first round victory over Winnipeg. Ryan O’Reilly and Vlad Tarasenko are a really good duo, and supporting players like Brayden Schenn, David Perron, and captain Alex Pietrangelo give the Blues some depth and scoring. The Blues finished this one up in 6, sending Laine, Schiefle, Wheeler, and the rest of the Jets back North. St Louis faces a rolling Dallas Stars team in round 2, starting Thursday night in Missouri.

 

NSH/DAL: Big upset here. Things are looking bad for Nashville, and their hefty trade deadline pickups didn’t work out like anyone anticipated. Simmonds was a missing man during the playoffs, as were the rest of the Preds. Dallas toppled them in 6 with a huge series from their big 3. Benn, Seguin, and Radulov have been lights out so far, with help from the emerging Roope Hintz and defensemen like John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen who have been adding offense from the point. Oh, and did I mention Ben Bishop is a Vezina candidate between the pipes? Dallas is a well rounded team with a couple of big superstars and goaltending that’ll keep them steady in the wild wild west. This team is confident after the series-clinching OT goal that sends them to play St. Louis in a surprisingly exciting round 2 matchup.

 

VGK/SJS: This was one hell of a series. Game in and game out, each matchup was exciting, full of scoring, hitting, and grinding. And it may have been a different result if not for the absurdly bad call in the third period on Cody Eakin. Come on. When has a crosscheck EVER been a 5-minute penalty? I know he was hurt on the play, but come on; you don’t call that a five, and you definitely don’t do that in a game 7. Regardless, I have to give San Jose props for converting as much as they did in that time. Down 3-0 in game 7 with ~10 minutes left in the game, that penalty occurred and the Sharks went on to score FOUR times within it. The game was then 4-3 San Jose with only 6 minutes remaining. Vegas rallied to send it to OT, but it was too late for them, angry and tired going into the extra period. The city and team was shocked and enraged by the terrible call made, and as a fan, you should be too. Honestly, I completely was expecting Vegas to go all the way to the finals (again) if they won this series. It was hard-fought down to the last minute though, and San Jose/Colorado is a pretty good offensive matchup as well.

Round one has been anything but quiet, but as the playoffs reach a final two teams and eventual champion is when viewers will really be on the edge of their seats, and we’ll get a chance to see some sick post-game cellys and championship parades. Looking for something to top Oshie’s sick slugging last year for the Caps, but we’re still a few weeks away from that. Tune into round two; you won’t regret it. 

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