Article by: Peter Caceci
The Eastern Conference
Bruins vs. Blue Jackets
After winning game 3 at home, Columbus is now leading the series against the Bruins 2-1. In their previous game, both teams came out swinging, but Columbus kept making the right shots. The action came through at the end of the first quarter, by the Blue Jackets’ very own Boone Jenner snapping a shot right by Bruins’ goalie Tuuka Rask. From there, the Jackets never let up. Jackets’ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky had a phenomenal game, saving 36 out of the 37 shot attempts, but even still, the bulk of the game was on the other side of the ice. The hero of the second game, Matt Duchene, kept up his dominance by scoring the second goal of the game.
Unfortunately, the Bruins were too late to realize what they could accomplish, and only started to light up the Jackets near the end of the third quarter. It really seemed grim at times, as Boston can sometimes come out of nowhere and change the mojo of a match. For example, their power-play reputation has been considered unstoppable until now. Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk was the only player to find a way past Bobrovsky’s wall to score their only goal. The big 3 of their team, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak, have been extremely quiet, and it has shown with their now 4-game silence.
If they continue to be this weak, and only try at the end of the game, then they will not last too much longer. Personally, I am not a Boston fan, and will most definitely never be at any point. Watching the underdogs beat the favorites of a series is always something that makes the sport enjoyable. As we have seen in this year’s playoffs, Columbus just knocked out the number one contender of the league, the Lightning. I hope that they continue their war until they obtain their first Stanley Cup title.
Islanders vs. Hurricanes
Here we have another low-level contender kicking and slamming down a top prospect. After being tortured for the third game in a row, the Islanders are now facing elimination. The third game looked incredible, with each team scoring one after another, ending the second quarter tied 2-2. Islanders goalie Rob Lehner showed great poise in net, as the teammates around him tried their best to block every entrance, but it was still not enough. The beginning of the end was at the 10:15 mark, where Hurricanes defenseman Sebastian Aho plucked the puck out of the air and passed to right winger Justin Williams who scored the lead for the team. From there, that was it, as the confidence in net just got dusted.
The Hurricanes and their commanding leads have even caught the Islanders off guard, a team that had a tremendous turnaround. Islanders coach Barry Trotz, who is still trying to figure out the game-plans of his opponent, has said “The DNA is similar in terms of how they play and how we win.” If this is the case, then he should not be having this much trouble. The Hurricanes’ defenseman Justin Faulk last game was able to skate on by the opponent’s backside and score his first playoff goal. When the defense is starting to score, their confidence is going to hit a peak and just remain there until their next opponent.
I hope the Hurricanes continue to dominate the Islanders. A team with a tremendous coach and severe turnaround, while placing second in their division, should not be having this. I get it, NHL playoffs have a history of the best being the worst and vice-versa, but still, get it together. If he chokes this series to this team, then he is just about on the same level as the coach for the Lightning, whose days should be numbered on that team. My hopes are that we see this team, with the phenomenal veteran Justin Williams, go toe-to-toe with the Blue Jackets.
The Western Conference
Sharks vs. Avalanche
The only team to finish near the top, and still stay alive in the playoffs, the Sharks are still pushing strong, and are heading into game 4 of their series against the Avalanche. Sharks started the game off like usual, taking the lead in some way 2-0 with the aid of center Logan Couture and left winger Timo Meier. Timo’s goal on that breakaway, cutting through that defense like a hot knife through butter, and slicing one right by the Avalanche’s goalie Semyon Varlamov. After losing their lead by two in the second quarter, and then having the game tied at the beginning of the third, Couture decided to put the team on his back and score two more goals and solidify a hat trick once there was an empty net.
As for the Avalanche, it seems like they were dealing with the high altitudes, as they took their grand old time for the first period. After looking like scrubs, their all-star center Nathan MacKinnon decided to start the party by shooting a top-corner shot, which Shark’s goalie Martin Jones did not have a chance at saving. The man has shown all year that he is going to go down in NHL history as one of the best. He has shown to the Sharks that he will not go down without a fight, as he has five goals, seven assists in the last seven games. Hopefully he can rally the rest of his team and have them tie the series tonight at 10:00.
After watching the beloved Golden Knights get knocked out by a team that was also on the ropes, I would like to see the Sharks keep climbing the hill. I have my sympathies for the Avalanche, as they are the obvious underdogs in this one. They cannot have their center be the only one doing the dirty work, and in game 2 they had multiple people score for the win. Their defensive schemes need some work, and if they can alter their attack up front and have some decoys, then they stand a chance.
Blues vs. Stars
This has by far been my favorite series at this point in the playoffs. Every single game has been a big “what if?” on who was going to pull ahead with the win. My favorite goalie Ben Bishop has continued his strong presence on the ice by having 27 saves in their 4-2 victory yesterday. As they continue the fight to St. Louis, Bishop addressed the win for the many fans out there, “It’s a big response by our guys and a big win for these fans.” On top of doing his job, Stars’ center Tyler Seguin scored two great goals and had two assists as well. A team that has a phenomenal goalie and a barrage of shooters, who are not afraid to take the shot, will win championships. It is obvious, even if you do not watch the sport of hockey. Along with Seguin, Vladimir Tarasenko and Robert Thomas continued the charge to score the remaining two goals. Watch out for this team, shots all over, defense soaring, and a coach willing to change the entire line to blow the minds of the opponent is a phenomenal concoction for a Stanley Cup appearance.
As for the Blues, as they looked dead in the water during the last game, do not give up. Playing relentlessly to a team that wants every single game, they are showing the true nature of an underdog, as they have been playing hard for every game that they have faced elimination for. Of course, it will be tough playing against a team that just knocked out the first place Predators, but the Blues have great players to offer into the mix, but they need some serious improvement. Blues defenseman Vince Dunn is trying his hardest by slamming the opposing offense to the ground, but at the same time he keeps giving the puck back to the Stars. Center Ivan Barbashev has seemed to be the guy to do the dirty work for the team by notching goals and assists, like in game 1 of this series. The team must revamp their strategy, and even though I am giving a nod to Stars, the Blues must do something.
My opinion for this series is obviously prevalent for this matchup. As much as I hope the Stars pull ahead, I honestly would not mind seeing the Blues taking over. Their coach Craig Berube is one of those guys who busts through every day to get ahead, and the first step to achieving this success is by calming down goalie Jordan Binnington, who looks like he is about to have a breakdown.
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