Highlights from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs

There are things you should never bet on—weather, horses and most of all, the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

For those of you not familiar with the National Hockey League (NHL), here is a quick and to the point summary. The season runs from October with the end of the regular season in early April. Not even two weeks later, teams that have "clinched" a spot in the playoffs begin a streak of seven games in round one. If a team is able to win all of the first four games, they’ve ‘swept’ the other team, and in turn, removed them from the playoffs. You see, that is exactly what happened to the best two teams in the NHL of the regular season, not even a week apart.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were the best team in the Atlantic division for the 2018–2019 season. They won a shocking 62 games and tied the league’s history for most games won by a team in a regular season. They were the Presidents’ Trophy winner and considered by most to be the guaranteed winners of the Stanley Cup in just a few short weeks. Their opponent in the first round was the Columbus Blue Jackets. To many Tampa fans, this matchup seemed like a dream come true. Columbus was the last Eastern Conference team to secure a spot in the playoffs. Theoretically, they also should have been the first to go.

When Columbus won the first game of seven, they won only by a single point (4–3). Tampa was determined that would be the last time. Well, not two days later Columbus won again, and this time it was by a huge margin of four points (5–1). In the third game, Columbus clenched the win again (3–1) and finally in game four, swept the Tampa Bay Lightning (7–4). It is safe to say no one was more shocked than Columbus themselves. Going into the first round, only 0.4% of registered NHL Round One predictions had Columbus advancing.

They say anything can happen in sports, and that statement has never been truer. Leading up to the beginning of the playoffs, Columbus made numerous changes in their roster by trading and acquiring new players. It was questionable at the time if this strategy would work. It proved successful when they were able to secure the last spot. They had no idea, though, their first opponent would be the best team in the NHL. You could argue that the reason for Tampa’s defeat was in the players or coaching, but I’d like to think it’s something else entirely. I firmly believe that Columbus just wanted it more, and if you ask me, it showed.

 

 

On the other coast, something just as equally surprising was occurring. The Calgary Flames had won the Pacific division and in turn the Western Conference. It was believed that this would be the team Tampa would meet in the Stanley Cup Final later this spring. The Flames had quite the impressive year, with few losses in comparison to others in their division. With a playoff position clinched, they began to gear up to face their first opponent in Round 1, the Colorado Avalanche.

Similar to the story happening on the Eastern coast, the Colorado Avalanche were the last team in the Western Conference to secure a playoff spot. Just like Columbus, they were also predicted to be the first to go.

At the end of the first game between Calgary and Colorado, it looked like Calgary was ready to sweep Colorado in just four games with a score of 4–0. Two days later when the two teams met again, Colorado won in overtime (3–2) and brought the series to a tie. Calgary wasn’t too worried just yet. However, over the next three games, Colorado came back and won each, and in turn knocked Calgary out of the playoffs. 

It’s hard to say just yet which two teams will meet in a few short weeks in the final. However, if the next rounds are anything like the first, I know I will always be rooting for the underdog.

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