NHL playoffs heat up

By: Andrew Utz ~Staff Writer~

Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com | Washington’s captain Alex Ovechkin has been a force this postseason, leading the Caps to a 3-0 series lead over the Flyers.

Now that we are almost done with the first round of the 2016 NHL playoffs, fans can get a good look at who has the momentum to continue on winning throughout the finals.

Starting in the East, the Panthers have dropped a game against the Islanders, a wild card team, who snuck in wins away and at home. Two overtime losses have Florida scrambling for an away win to extend the series.

Veteran Jaromir Jagr hasn’t made a dent in the series, extending his post-season goal drought to 32 games. If the Islanders want to push through, keeping the pressure on seems to be the way to do it.

The winner of the matchup faces either Tampa Bay or Detroit. The Lightning so far have pushed the series out to a 2-1 record, with Detroit picking up the win in a 2-0 shutout.

Back-up goalkeeper Petr Mrazek faced only 16 shots throughout the contest, while an excellent fore-check handled the Lightning’s first line. Whether the Lightning have a counter to this will become apparent in the games to come and will show how adaptive the team is in the long run.

This year has been the show of a lifetime for the Washington Capitals but not so much for the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Capitals are up 3-0 in the series and look to be heading to the second round without much hassle. If the team wins, it will face either the Penguins or the Rangers, who have tied the series as it goes to Madison Square Garden. The return of Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin may be the difference in getting through to the second round.

In the Western Conference, the Dallas Stars have taken two games against the Minnesota Wild, but a recent reawakening of the Wild’s offense is keeping the playoff dream alive.

If the Wild have indeed unlocked the gate to Dallas’ net, then they could play either defending champions Chicago or the St. Louis Blues. The Blues have a 2-1 lead in the series, with wins both home and away. A win for Chicago would help ease the pressure going back to St. Louis, but with the games only determined by a single goal for both teams, it is hard to predict who will come out on top.

Nashville is currently upsetting the Anaheim Ducks in an astonishing 2-0 run. In both games the Predators have been seemingly on their heels yet have stifled the Ducks in each game by a single goal. With momentum continuing on the home leg of Nashville’s recent run, Anaheim needs to break through with an away win.

One of those teams will play against the winner of the final series between San Jose and the L.A. Kings. The Kings most recently won in overtime on the away leg despite being swept at home, capitalizing on the Shark’s bad home record this season.

With the postseason coming to a close, all the teams need to find heroes to carry them onwards through the next rounds. With that in mind, the best team will hoist the coveted Stanley Cup.