By: Andrew Utz ~Staff Writer~
Last Wednesday marked the start of the NHL Playoffs, with 16 teams facing off for the Stanley Cup. Each team has played three to four games. Starting in the Western Conference bracket, the St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota Wild have gone back and forth in Missouri.
The Wild stole the first game of the series, but the Blues held on through the second game to tie the series at one. The third and fourth games will be played in Minnesota. With no clear leader so far, the series is still up for grabs. The Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks have had a back and forth series as well.
The Hawks have taken games one and three, an away and a home victory, of the series. Nashville has only secured a single game after a 6-2 rout on the visiting team. The next game is on Tuesday.
The Anaheim Ducks, the regular season winners of the Western Conference, have led the series so far against low-seeded Winnipeg Jets 2-0. Though the next two games are being played in Winnipeg, it will be hard to slow down the Ducks, who have won five of their last seven games. The battle for Canada is on in the final berth of the conference containing the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames.
The Flames lead the series 2-1, but both teams have had blowout victories in front of their home crowds to show their attacking prowess. In the Eastern Conference there is another Canadian battle.
The Montreal Canadiens have so far smothered the Ottawa Senators 3-0, and a fourth victory will make them the first team to advance in the bracket. The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings have split their series so far 1-1.
The Red Wings stole the first game from the hosts, but the Lightning came back swinging in a 5-1 victory for game two. The series tie breaker will be played in Detroit. The New York Rangers and the Pittsburg Penguins have had a split series as well.
Both sides have had no clear advantage, as the Rangers have seemed slow to attack versus a penalty-ridden Pittsburgh. The final conference games are between the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders.
So far the Islanders have led the series 2-1, taking games one and three. The Islanders hope to extend their lead further as they host the Capitals on Tuesday. Looking forward to the rest of the playoffs, it is hard to pick a clear-cut victor from the pile.
Anaheim’s a strong contender to take the Western Conference, but they must stop high-scoring teams like St. Louis and Calgary. The same goes in the Eastern Conference, with Montreal taking the helm as the best team.
But the Islanders have so far shown they could contend for the coveted trophy with a patient playing style, and Tampa Bay’s recent victory could springboard them to a higher playing level.