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Hockey

🏒 First Round of Stanley Cup Playoffs to Begin Tuesday After Multiple Upsets in the Qualifying Rounds

August 10, 2020
ANDRE RINGUETTE/FREESTYLE PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES
ANDRE RINGUETTE/FREESTYLE PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: It’s Stanley Cup playoff time...but for real now. The qualifiers and round-robin are over, and after a few wild upsets, the first round of playoffs is set to begin. Bring it on!

What happened in the qualifiers?: It was Upset City on Friday night, when two of the top teams were humiliated eliminated. First the Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the Eastern Conference’s lowest seeded team, the Montreal Canadiens, and then the Edmonton Oilers lost to the West’s bottom feeders, the Chicago Blackhawks.

  • The only series to go to a deciding fifth game was last night’s tilt between the Toronto Maple Leafs (who blew a 3–0 lead in Game 3) and the Columbus Blue Jackets (who blew a 3–0 lead in Game 4). The Blue Jackets took Game 5 with a 3–0 win (no blown leads this time) to clinch the final first round spot.
  • Don’t feel too bad for the eliminated teams, though. They’re now entered into a lottery to win the first overall draft pick in October’s NHL Draft. Each of the losing teams from the qualifiers have a 12.5% chance of winning the top pick, which will be determined today at 6 p.m. ET.

So what now?: The official first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs featuring 16 teams begins Tuesday. The teams who made it through the qualifiers will face off against the top four teams in each conference, who automatically made it through based on their regular season records.

  • While the qualifiers have been keeping us entertained, the top teams have been facing off in a round-robin mini-tournament to decide seeding for the first round. The Philadelphia Flyers shockingly came out on top of the East, meaning they’ll face the Canadiens. And the West’s No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights will take on the Blackhawks.
  • Unlike the five-game series of the qualifiers, the first round will go back to the usual best-of-seven series. Check out the full schedule here to keep up with your August hockey (still sounds so weird!).

🏀🏒 Postseason Favourites Become Apparent as Leagues Return to Play

August 06, 2020
NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

WNBA: Even though we’re just two weeks into the regular season, we already have strong postseason favorites: the Chicago Sky, Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm, who are leading the league with identical 4-1 records. Things aren’t so peachy for the New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun, though, who are both winless through five games apiece. 

  • And the Liberty have it extra bad, with first overall draft pick and presumed savior Sabrina Ionescu (pronounced YOH-NESS-COO) out for at least a month (aka probably the season) after spraining her ankle in her third-ever pro game. Ionescu left the bubble yesterday to visit a specialist in New York. Sad.

NBA: The Los Angeles Lakers have secured the West. As the heavy favorites to win the NBA Championship, the Lakers clinched the top seed in the Western Conference (the Milwaukee Bucks are in the top spot in the East but have not officially clinched it...yet) in their third of eight seeding games on Monday. Just bring on the playoffs already!

NHL: The Carolina Hurricanes became the first team to advance through the qualifiers this week, sweeping their series against the New York Rangers. The Hurricanes, obviously fueled by this adorable montage of messages from their families, are the only undefeated team in the qualifying round.

MLB: The Miami Marlins are back in action and completely unrecognizable. After 18 players tested positive for COVID-19 and six games were postponed, over half of the team’s 30-man roster needed to be replaced before the Marlins could resume play. With fresh faces (including an Olympic speedskater), the Marlins have gone 3-0 against the Baltimore Orioles.

  • And speaking of the MLB’s total lack of control over their teams, 13 players and staff on the St. Louis Cardinals have tested positive for COVID-19, after players allegedly visited a casino *insert exasperated sigh here* after their series against the Minnesota Twins. Listen to this week’s episode of The GIST of It for more MLB news

🏒 Canadian Teams Have Strong Showing in First Games of Stanley Cup Playoffs

August 06, 2020
ANDRE RINGUETTE/FREESTYLE PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES
ANDRE RINGUETTE/FREESTYLE PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Last weekend, six Canadian teams entered the Stanley Cup playoffs, and today, six teams remain. It’s a Christmas-in-August miracle.

Tell me more: The qualifying round of the playoffs has given us everything we’d hoped for and more: exciting matchups, jaw-dropping goals, jaw-breaking hits and something to do from noon to midnight every day. And while it’s been only six days, the Canadian teams have looked refreshingly strong in their first few games.

  • The Toronto Maple Leafs tied up the series against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday with a convincing 3–0 win. Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens, as the lowest seeded team, have been surprisingly spunky against the Cup-favorite Pittsburgh Penguins, leading the series 2-1.
  • In the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets are duking it out to be the first Canadian team through to the first round, the Vancouver Canucks are tied with the Minnesota Wild, and Edmonton Oiler Connor McDavid continues to prove he’s the best player on the ice right now (sorry, Sidney Crosby!).

The big story: Unfortunately, we’ve also seen a fair share of injuries. Toronto’s Jake Muzzin was taken off the ice on a stretcher after an awkward collision during Tuesday’s game. Muzzin was taken to the hospital with an unnamed injury, and though he’s since been discharged, he’ll remain in quarantine for at least the remainder of the series.

  • The Jets were down two star players for Tuesday’s Game 3, after suffering injuries in Game 1. Mark Scheifele (pronounced SHY-FLEE) went out early in the game with a leg injury, and Patrik Laine (pronounced LIE-NAY) suffered a hand injury in the third period. Ouch.

What’s next?: Three Canadian games tonight. The Canucks treat us to an early game at 2:30 p.m. ET, the Maple Leafs face off at 8 p.m. ET and then the all-Canadian matchup, in which the Flames could take the series over the Jets, kicks off at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Any other hockey news?: Hockey Canada’s board of governors is made up of 10 white dudes (real shocker), but not for much longer. When board elections take place in November, the governing body will now mandate that at least two of those spots be filled by women. Damn right.

  • The organization is hoping to recruit “a more diverse group of board nominees, including visible minorities.” In its history, Hockey Canada has only ever had one female board member, Karen Phibbs, so get your applications in now, gals!

🏒🏀 Raptors Ranked Second in Eastern Conference Entering NBA Seeding-Games, Six Canadian NHL Teams In Stanley Cup Playoffs

July 30, 2020
KYLE TERADA/USA TODAY SPORTS
KYLE TERADA/USA TODAY SPORTS

The GIST: For the first time in forever, there’s a very solid chance that Canadian teams could win both the NBA Championship and the Stanley Cup. Hey, stranger things have happened in 2020, right?

Tell me about the Raps: As the reigning champs, our Canadian sweethearts are high on many “favorites to win” lists. Heading into the seeding games, the Raps sit in second place in the Eastern Conference, which is extra impressive considering the injuries they dealt with during the regular season.

What about hockey?: Six of seven Canadian teams have made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs (better luck next year, Ottawa Senators!), showing the world that puck really is our game. And sure, the playoffs have been expanded this year to allow for more teams, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that these Canadian teams have earned their spots.

  • In the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Canadiens will have a bit of a tough time against one of the Cup favorites, the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the Toronto Maple Leafs have a much better shot against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the qualifying round.
  • The Western Conference gives us our best shot to bring the Cup back to Canada for the first time since 1993, with the No. 5 Edmonton Oilers leading the charge. Unfortunately, the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets have to face each other in the qualifying round, but we’re pumped to see at least one Canadian team guaranteed to move on.

🏒 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs to Begin on Saturday August 1st

July 30, 2020
CHASE AGNELLO-DEAN/NHLI VIA GETTY IMAGES
CHASE AGNELLO-DEAN/NHLI VIA GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: We can’t have one without the other. After tonight’s NBA debut, all focus will shift to Saturday’s NHL restart. How spoiled are we?

How will it work?: Unlike the NBA, the NHL has decided to skip the remaining regular season games and jump right into the Stanley Cup playoffs. That said, this postseason will look a little different than normal (what even is normal anymore anyway?)

  • The league has expanded from the usual 16 playoff teams to 24, and has added in a short qualifying round to start. The bottom eight teams of each conference (based on regular season standings) will face off in best-of-five series, and the winners will advance to the official first round of playoffs.

What about the top four teams?: The top four teams from each conference have already clinched playoff spots. So to not miss out on the fun, they’ll play in a separate round robin tournament to determine their playoff seeding.

  • The first playoff round will return to the usual best-of-seven series, and when that’s over, all the pairings will be reseeded for the second round. More of a visual learner? Check out the full bracket here.

Got it. So what’s the timeframe?: The seeding/qualifying round will run until August 9th. Add a few weeks each for the first and second rounds and Conference Finals, and we could be looking at the Stanley Cup Finals being played into October...which is when the season usually starts. Wild.

And who’s going to win the Cup?: The Tampa Bay Lightning (who are looking to come back from their embarrassing first round exit last season) and the Boston Bruins (who lost in the Stanley Cup Final last year) are the heavy favorites. That said, we wouldn’t be surprised if Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals spoil their fun.

  • In the West, the defending champion St. Louis Blues could go back to back, but only if the surging Colorado Avalanche can be held off. Oh, the anticipation.