The Race for the NHL Playoffs

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The Race for the NHL Playoffs

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The 2018-2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are rapidly approaching. Teams are now doing whatever it takes to get points and get to the top of their division. While some teams are having no problem getting to the top, other teams are doing whatever they can to reach that position. At the top of the Atlantic Division lies the Tampa Bay Lightning, with an astounding 54 points. This their second season in a row as the leader of their division since 2004, when they won the Stanley Cup. The Winnipeg Jets lead the Central Division with 46 points, which is quite surprising to say the least. The Nashville Predators, who are expected to lead the division, are quickly trailing behind Winnipeg. The most shocking division leader might be the Calgary Flames who top the Pacific Division with 46 points as well. The Flames have won all 10 of their last games.

Finally, leading the Metropolitan Division are the 2018 Stanley Cup Champions, the Washington Capitals. Players like Alexander Ovechkin are hunting for their second Stanley Cup. Ovechkin has been playing for Washington since he was drafted in 2004 and it took him and his team over 10 years to finally win the cup.

“This moment. We [were] waiting a long, long time, since day one.” Ovechkin said in an interview after winning the cup.

Many fans were expecting for Ovechkin to retire after his big win, but despite the expectations Ovechkin came back for another season.

“We waited so long,” Ovechkin stated.

Although the Capitals lead their division teams trailing behind them are beginning to catch up. On December 19 of 2018 the Capitals went up against their rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins. For the last two seasons the Penguins have beat and eliminated the Capitals from the playoffs in the second round. In both of those two seasons Pittsburgh has gone on to winning the Stanley Cup, creating tension between them and Washington.

“It’s a missed opportunity and another game that’s the last shot,” Ovechkin stated in 2016 after losing in the second round to the Penguins.

The game that occurred on the 19th was no exception to the rivalry between the two. Not even a minute into the game, Capitals Tom Wilson, who is known for starting fights and drama on the ice found himself in a sprawl with Penguins defense man Jamie Oleksiak. The fight led to Oleksiak being taken to the locker room for concussion protocol.

“Oleksiak and Wilson drop the gloves less than a minute into the game. After Oleksiak loses his helmet, Wilson catches him with a right hand hook and takes him down.” Michelle Crechiolo said.

This was only the beginning of the heated and emotional game. The long standing rivalry between Capitals captain, Alexander Ovechkin and Penguins captain, Sidney Crosby continued on. Whenever the two go up against one another they always have some words for the other. The two got into a bit of a verbal fight on their opposing benches during the first period of the game. The first goal of them game was scored by Eller on the Capitals. Sidney Crosby quickly answered back, tying the game 1-1. The game continued with no goals scored until the end of the second period when Bryan Rust of the Penguins scored a goal, giving Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead. As the game continued into the third no goals were scored and the Penguins held their lead, allowing them to win the game, ending the Capitals reign over Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has been improving throughout the season, working their way to knock the Capitals out of their leading position in the division.

As the season goes on teams continue to work towards getting points up on the board, hoping to climb higher in their division.

“These kind of intense, emotional games seem to bring the best in us. We’ve got to turn the page quick though… we have to build off this one, but understand we need that same intensity and desperation every night if we want to win.” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said after their win over the Capitals.