Stanley Cup First Round Brings Surpises
The Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-1 Sunday, giving them the 3-0 series lead in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. For a team that had 2-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the playoffs, the Lightning’s choke has many fans stunned as they can feel their brackets begin to crumble.
With the team that tied the NHL record of 62 regular-season wins, the Lightning’s falling 3-0 in the series against the wild card Blue Jackets, many are questioning who the Stanley Cup winner will be.
The Vegas Golden Knights held the next best odds at 10-1 to win the Stanley Cup. Currently, they are leading their series against the San Jose Sharks 2-1 after a 6-3 win on Sunday. If the Jackets win the series against the Lightning, they will move forward to face the winner of the Boston Bruins/Toronto Maple Leafs, who, as of Sunday, were tied 1-1 in the series. At the rate they are playing, the Jackets should take down either team and move rather easily into the Eastern Conference Final.
The Washington Capitals were up 2-0 over the Carolina Hurricanes as of Sunday, and it looks like they’ll easily march into the Eastern Conference final as well. Despite the Islanders’ stunning 3-0 series lead against the Pittsburgh Penguins and their higher seed in the playoffs over the Capitals, the Capitals stand more likely to roll over the Islanders to play the Jackets in the Conference Final. With both teams playing strong hockey, it’s going to be an interesting series to see who advances.
In the west, things seem to be a little calmer, with teams tied in the series or holding one game leads over the others. The Calgary Flames held 10-1 odds going into the playoffs like the Golden Knights while the Sharks held 12-1 odds. Although many picture the Knights moving past the Sharks, Las Vegas will have to take on the winner of the Flames/Avalanche series. The Flames look poised to take on the next round despite losing to the Avalanche on Saturday.
In the upper half of the bracket, the Winnipeg Jets grabbed their first win of the series against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, but the Blues still held the 2-1 lead. The Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars stood at a 1-1 tie, both playing decent hockey heading into Monday night.
Three games into the first round, the Blue Jackets are 50 percent on the power play while the Bruins, Jackets and Flames stand at 100 percent on the penalty kill.
Right winger Mark Stone of the Golden Knights leads the playoffs with six goals and eight points overall. For goaltending, the Flames’ Mike Smith leads with a .954 save percentage with the Islanders’ Robin Lehner following closely behind with a .951 save percentage.
As a Penguins fan myself, seeing them down 3-0 stings, but watching the Blue Jackets scoot off to a 3-0 lead hurts just as bad, if not more. At Witt, there’s a whole lot of Jackets fans, and knowing my friends, they won’t hesitate to shake the Jackets’ sweep of the Lightning in my face.
Despite my tough feelings so far, it’s going to be a great playoff season with the amount of surprises in the first round. With the Lightning and Penguins potentially eliminated on Tuesday night, who is to say what surprises the next round will bring.