Game-on with Gabe

GABE HIGGINS
Staff Writer

What does April stand for in the sporting world? You may immediately think that the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs are the biggest, most exciting event of the spring sporting calendar, but you would be mistaken. It is playoff season for the National Hockey League (NHL) and this is really all that matters.
The NHL season is peaking as teams enter the playoffs. Goals are more difficult to attain, hits are harder and every single play means 10 times as much as it did in the regular season, because it is all for the Stanley Cup.
In my opinion, the Stanley Cup is the coolest championship trophy in all of sports, because it has the name of every single player who has ever been on the winning team engraved on its surface. The cup weighs a whopping 36 pounds. What makes the cup all the more interesting is that each player of the team that wins the Stanley Cup gets possession of the trophy for one day. Then the trophy goes back to the NHL for the next year’s playoffs.
This year’s NHL playoffs are set to be more intense than ever before. The Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues have played two games in their series already and both of those have gone into overtime. The first game went into triple overtime, which means the game was almost as long as two full hockey games! In hockey, the first team to score in an overtime period is the winner, which means that teams live or die by their performance in overtime.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Bluejackets have played a great first game, as well. The Bluejackets took an early 3-1 lead, but Pittsburgh fought back to win the game 4-3.
Personally, I think that NHL playoff games are the most exciting type of playoff game to watch. I would go as far as to say that I would rather watch the NHL playoffs than March Madness. It is truly unfortunate that more people are unaware of how intense watching an NHL playoff game can be.
If you have never seen an NHL game before, you have plenty of reasons to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs. One of the reasons why the playoffs are so great this season is because only one Canadian team progressed to post-season play this year! How cool is that? We took a Canadian sport and made it our own by shutting out all of their teams and making room for our own.
Another reason that I am going to enjoy these playoffs more than I do most years is that the Washington Capitals are not in contention! As a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, I have always had a special place in my heart for hating the Washington Capitals, so their not being in contention for a Stanley Cup is going to make this year’s post-season that much more enjoyable for me. (Granted, they probably would have lost in the first round anyway, just as they do every other year.)
I can enjoy that they are not in the playoffs even more because Alex Ovechkin, their best player, had his sixth consecutive season of scoring 50 goals per season, and they still did not make it to the post-season. That is embarrassing.
There are several great match-ups in this year’s playoffs, but a couple of them stand out, and I believe there will be some upsets coming. The first game to talk about is the Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Redwings series. The Detroit Redwings won the first game of the series, and I think they will upset the Bruins and move on in the playoffs, even though the Bruins had a great regular season.
Another series that stands out as one to keep an eye on is the Blackhawks vs. Blues. The Blues got the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, and they are playing last year’s Stanley Cup champions. The Blackhawks have some great experience, but the Blues have proven to have more heart early on in the series. I think the Blues will move on.
Now to fast forward to the Stanley Cup championship series. My admittedly biased opinion is that the Pittsburgh Penguins will move past Columbus, to whom they have not lost since 2011, and then use that momentum to get to the Cup with two of the best players in the world, Evegeni Malkin and Sydney Crosby. Finally, as a fan of the movie Mighty Ducks, I am going to have to root for the Anaheim Ducks to fly into the Stanley Cup championship series, with the Ducks ultimately losing to the Penguins in the final.

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