Hello, I’m Dan Gartland. The sports calendar is about to get a lot more crowded.
In today’s SI:AM:
What to watch for in the NHL playoffs
After ceding stardom to the NBA for a few weeks, it’s finally time for the NHL playoffs to begin. (The Stanley Cup playoffs usually start before the NBA playoffs, but the NHL’s regular season started two weeks later than usual, hence the delayed start of the playoffs.)
The first four games are tonight, starting with the Bruins and Hurricanes at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Here are the first round matches:
Panthers vs. Capitals
Hurricanes vs. Bruins
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning
Rangers vs Penguins
Avalanche against predators
Wild vs. Blues
Scroll to continue
Flames against stars
Oilers vs. Kings
I admit I don’t follow the NHL as closely as other sports, but I still get sucked into the playoffs. Nothing in sport can match the intensity of post-season hockey (like the famous tweet from Jon Bois attests). I can’t wait to spend the next two months on the edge of my sofa getting way too invested in teams that I had never cared about before.
If you’ve been following the NHL regular season from afar, here’s what you need to watch out for:
- The new NHL TV home: This will be the first playoff series since the 2004-05 lockout that will not be broadcast by NBC. The games will be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2, TNT and TBS in the United States. Kenny Albert, who took over as the main voice of NBC coverage following the retirement of Mike Emrick, is TNT’s top play-by-play announcer. Sean McDonough is ESPN’s manager. The Stanley Cup final will air on ABC.
- Full houses: For the first time since 2019, all arenas will be operating at full capacity for the playoffs.
- Drought in Canada: Until a team north of the border lifts the Stanley Cup, every playoff will be dominated by talk of the 1993 Canadiens being the last Canadian team to win the championship. The Maple Leafs, led by 60-goal scorer Auston Matthews, are probably the best prospect in the country, but their history of playoff failures is well documented. The Flames, who had the third-best record in the West, are also a possible candidate. The Oilers are the only other Canadian team on the field.
- Another Southern Stanley Cup? The Canadiens may have to endure the indignity of seeing another Florida team lift the Cup next month. After the Lightning won the last two titles, the Panthers were the NHL’s top team this year, winning the Presidents’ Trophy with a 58-18-6 record. They are led by Jonathan Huberdeau, whose 85 assists were the most in the league. Florida’s top defenseman is Aaron Ekblad, who has missed the last 21 games with a knee injury. But he participated fully in yesterday’s training and can play in match 1. Florida also pulled off a big trade at the deadline to acquire Claude Giroux from the Flyers. Oh, and if the Panthers can’t do it, there’s another Southern team that’s a favorite: the Hurricanes had the second-best record in the East.
- Rockies top scorers: The Avalanche are the best team in the West and the deepest team in the field. They have scored the fourth-most goals in the league this season (308, 3.76 per game) but lack a single player in the league’s top 20 scorers. Mikko Rantanen led Colorado with 36 goals, one of seven Avalanche players with more than 20 goals. And Colorado is among the best defensive teams in the NHL, ranking in the top ten with 2.83 goals against per game.
- Playoff beards: If you don’t care about games, just look at who can and can’t grow beards out of superstition. Personally, I can’t wait to see how Rangers winger Chris Kreider handles his goatee. I was speaking yesterday with a Hurricanes fan who couldn’t remember Kreider’s name and called him “the guy who looks like he’s playing the devil in a movie.” He’ll look even more evil if Rangers make a deep run and he lets the goatee flourish.
The best of Sports Illustrated
Albert Breer’s MMQB is today’s daily coverage, featuring insight into how the Eagles traded for AJ Brown.
The Bucks did what the Nets couldn’t do and bullied the Celtics’ dogged defense en route to a Game 1 win, writes Chris Mannix. … Mannix was in New York a day earlier for the big Katie Taylor-Amanda Serrano fight. …SI’s NBA staff recap the weekend, including the Splash Brothers overcoming Draymond Green’s ejection. … Conor Orr’s Notes how each team did in the NFL Draft.
Around the world of sports
Kelsie Whitmore became the first woman in the starting lineup for an Atlantic League game. … Draymond Green recorded a podcast episode immediately after winning Warriors Game 1 to defend against being ejected. …Brandon Clarke of Memphis, the man on receiving the foul that sent Green off, said it was “not shocking”. … The Falcons have signed an interesting undrafted free agent: former lacrosse player and Division II National Championship-winning quarterback Jared Bernhardt, whom they plan to deploy as a receiver. … No Texas Longhorn was selected in the NFL Draft for only the second time since 1938.
The first five…
…things I saw yesterday:
5. Francisco Lindor carrying a microphone on Sunday night baseball
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo throw the ball from the backboard to himself for a sick dunk
3. Jrue Holiday jokes about being able to replicate Giannis’ dunk “on an eight-foot hoop”
2. Ben Joyce of Tennessee throws a fastball at 105.5 mphfastest pitch ever in college baseball
1. Oregon Field Center The Colby Shade Home Robbery
On this day in 1988, Reds manager Pete Rose was suspended for 30 days for what?
Friday SIQ: Prior to this year, when was the last time two defensive players were chosen as the top two picks in the NFL Draft?
To respond: In 2000, when the Browns took defensive end Courtney Brown first and Washington picked linebacker LaVar Arrington second. Both players went to Penn State, the first time since Nebraska’s Irving Fryar and Dean Steinkuhler in 1984 that the first two draft picks were from the same school.
The 2000 draft was crucial for the Browns. They had the No. 1 pick for the second straight year after returning to Cleveland in 1999 and had long been rumored to decide between Brown and Arrington. Speaking ahead of the draft, Browns director of football operations Dwight Clark says d’Arrington, “It’s Lawrence Taylor.” But Clark also loved Brown, because at 271 pounds, he ran a 4.52 40-yard sprint on Penn State’s pro day.
Washington also had a big opportunity in the 2000 draft, holding both the No. 2 and No. 3 picks after acquiring the Saints’ first round in a draft-day trade in 1999 (New Orleans picked Ricky Williams) and traded four picks (including Nos. 12 and 24) to the 49ers two months before the draft. Washington nailed both selections, picking Arrington and offensive lineman Chris Samuels. Arrington was a three-time Pro Bowler before leaving for free agency after a nasty contract dispute (and retired after tearing his Achilles tendon midway through his first season with the Giants), while Samuels was named to six Pro Bowls before a spinal problem ended his career.
Brown’s career in Cleveland was not so impressive. He played five injury-plagued seasons before ending his career with a year in Denver.
From the Vault: May 2, 1988
The Orioles are one of the worst teams in baseball this year, but at least they’re not as bad as they were in 1988.
That year, Baltimore opened the season with a 21-game losing streak. It remains the longest slip to open a season in MLB history and the longest streak at any point in the season for an American League team. The 1961 Phillies hold the record for the longest losing streak in modern MLB history at 23 games. (If you include pre-1900 teams, the 1889 Louisville Colonels are the biggest losers, having lost 26 straight games in a 27-111 season.)
The May 2, 1988 issue of SI was printed before the Orioles’ streak ended, so the cover featuring an underdog Billy Ripken only had his record at 0–18. They would be swept by the Twins before beating the White Sox 9-0 in Chicago on April 29 to break the streak.
After losing the first six games, the Orioles fired manager Cal Ripken Sr. His dismissal came the same day he pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges. This opened the door for Frank Robinson to become the first black manager in franchise history. Robinson took his situation in stride. After losing six more after taking over the team, SI’s Franz Lidz portrayed Robinson as having “a fairly cheerful disposition”. He was also cracking jokes, telling Lidz ahead of the No. 13 loss that he expected his team to score plenty of points that night. “Fifty, to be exact,” he said. “We will win 50-49.” They hit a season-high five but allowed nine.
Things didn’t get much easier for the Orioles after ending the streak. They finished the season at 54-107, the majors’ worst record.
Discover more SI’s historical archives and images at vault.si.com.