The first round of NHL's 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs is almost over, so here's a recap of some of the action from each series in the Eastern Conference.
(1) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (Wild Card No. 2) New Jersey Devils
What’s happened? Lightning won series 4-1.
It looks like the Eastern Conference's Stanley Cup bid will go to the Lightning. Actually, it will just go to Nikita Kucherov.
Kucherov was expected to carry Tampa Bay in the postseason after scoring a team-leading 100 points in the regular season, and he’s done just that. The forward led the Lightning with 10 points in the series and was a nightmare for Devils defensemen.
(2) Boston Bruins vs. (3) Toronto Maple Leafs
What’s happened? Bruins lead series 3-2.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara and goalie Tuukka Rask have are no longer in their golden years, but the Bruins have still enjoyed success in recent seasons. Led by winger David Pastrnak, the Bruins started their series off strong against the Maple Leafs with 5-1 and• 7-3 wins.
Granted, those wins came backed with a home crowd, and as soon as the series went international, Boston lost its footing and a chance to hold a commanding three game lead.
As for Toronto, its back-to-back playoff appearance gives the franchise hope for the future. Dumped in six games last year by the Washington Capitals, the Maple Leafs and their All-Star center, Auston Matthews, have steered the winds of change in the six. Two years in the league and two playoff appearances for Toronto, Matthews has been all but integral in its success.
That said, Matthews, who only has totaled two points thus far, and the Maple Leafs have to overcome their youth if they want to keep this Eastern Conference series interesting.
(1) Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (Wild Card No. 1)
What’s happened? Capitals lead series 3-2.
We could talk about this series by discussing how well Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has played or how both Artemi Panarin and Alex Ovechkin have put on a clinic when it comes to scoring goals.
Instead, let's discuss the one thing that, as of right now, will probably be remembered from this series. It’s this video from warm-ups of Game 2, and it shows a dad appearing to prevent Capitals forward Brett Connolly from tossing a puck to 6-year-old Capitals fan Keelan Moxley behind the glass.
It took Connolly three successful tries to flip a puck over the glass and have it land with his obvious intended receiver, Keelan. The dad snagged the first two pucks and gave them to the two young boys standing on either side of Keelan. It wasn’t until an angered Connolly looked at the dad and made a forceful motion toward Keelan for the dad to finally realize he was kind of screwing everything up.
Look, the dad probably wanted all three kids to have a puck. But why does he need to snag every puck and manually hand it to the kid of his choosing rather than Connolly’s? If you’re the dad here, there’s no way to not look like a putz by grabbing the puck and handing it to anyone other than Keelan. Hell, it’s surprising the dad didn’t just keep the pucks for himself.
Keelan’s day should be made again if she accepts Washington owner Ted Leonsis' invitation to sit in the seats right behind the glass for the entirety of Game 5. She originally sat by the glass just for warm-ups in Game 2.
(2)Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (3) Philadelphia Flyers
What’s happened? Penguins won series 4-2.
It’s the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Sidney Crosby still has all four limbs, so naturally, the Penguins did what they do best: dominate.
In movie-like fashion, Pittsburgh routed Philadelphia 7-0 in PPG Paints Arena to start the series off.
Really and truly, from the beginning of this series NHL fans naturally just assumed that the Penguins would have their way with the Flyers.
The back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions defeated both the New York Rangers and the Blue Jackets in five games the past two years of the playoffs.
What this means is that they aren’t good enough to just simply put the scrub teams aside and sweep them in the first round.
That said, if the Penguins had a year to sweep anyone in the first round, 2018 would’ve been the year. The Flyers lost all of the regular season games to their cross-state rival by an average difference of about 3 goals. That’s not very good.
The Flyers were tasked with defeating the Penguins in a best of seven when they'd only beat them once out of seven times since game 5. As much as the NHL would love to see it happen, the Flyers were just another useless cast of characters in the Penguins' way for a potential third championship.