By Tim Klapac, Sports Editor
The first weekend of the Stanley Cup playoffs featured a lot for fans to digest. Between player suspensions, overtime games and blown leads, we are seeing yet again why the NHL playoffs are the most entertaining and toughest to win .
In another installment of the Presidents’ Trophy curse, the Tampa Bay Lightning could be on the verge of one of the biggest postseason upsets in league history. After tying the record for the most regular season wins, Tampa Bay lost the first two games of its first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Both games were in Tampa Bay, and each game caused a different reason to panic.
Game one saw the Lightning blow a 3-0 lead and lose 4-3. Game two was humiliating from start to finish as the Blue Jackets strutted to a 5-1 win and Tampa Bay’s star forward, Nikita Kucherov, was suspended for game three for an illegal hit in this game. The Lightning would lose Game three and are now on the brink of the elimination.
The team that was once considered the kings of the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins, are being treated like anything but royalty after they lost the first three games of their series with the New York Islanders. Pittsburgh’s captain, center Sidney Crosby, is nowhere to be found, failing to register a point in so far and has a plus-minus rating of -4. This means Crosby has been on the ice for four more Islanders goals than Penguins goals.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins have exchanged 4-1 victories in their first two games. The only series that hasn’t been alarming is the Washington Capitals taking both games against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Out west, the situation is more intense, with three of the four series splitting their first two games. The reigning conference champion Vegas Golden Knights appeared to be in trouble after losing game one to the San Jose Sharks, 5-2. However, Vegas responded with a 5-3 win in game two to turn this series into a high-scoring sprint to the finish.
The top team in the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames, appeared to be poised for an easy first round victory following their 4-0 win in game one against the Colorado Avalanche. But, like most hockey playoffs series, this completely changed when Colorado took game two in overtime, one of four postseason games to already reach an extra period.
The Nashville Predators needed an overtime win to even their series with the Dallas Stars, a wild card team that many didn’t think had a shot to win a single game. With the St. Louis Blues being the only team to take a 2-0 series lead, the Western Conference is shaping up for a long first round.
If you’ve never watched ice hockey before, and have the chance to catch a playoff game, you should do it. The NHL is airing playoff games all over NBC’s family of channels, such as CNBC, USA Network, NBC Sports Network and NBC’s national channel.
Playoff hockey’s intensity is what turned me into a hockey fan, and I believe it can have the same impact on any sports fan.