Darrell Davis: NHL playoff format is just fine

2019 NHL playoff preview Lightning vs. Blue Jackets

There aren't many - any? - areas to really exploit them. They are the defending champions, so they know exactly what needs to be done to win. That's why they play the games.

Seth Jones' power-play goal late in the third period capped a thrilling rally, as the Columbus Blue Jackets erased a three-goal deficit and stunned the host Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Wednesday in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Winnipeg's Patrik Laine opened the scoring in the first period, and St. Louis' David Perron responded early in the third. So, grab tickets if you can, and take in some playoff hockey. Let's just say that with one game left, three teams could have won the division; it was that close. The Blues continued their dominant play in the playoffs, setting themselves up with a date in the Final against the aforementioned Lightning. Columbus - and its leaky goalie Sergei Bobrovsky - played scared for the remainder of the game and gave up goals to Bolts rookie Anthony Cirelli and center Yanni Gourde as time ran out on the first frame of the contest. Nikita Kucherov has the most points in the league with 128, 87 of those being assists.

Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Evander Kane added goals in a wild second period that featured heavy hitting, a parade to the penalty box and the high intensity expected in a series between two franchises that have become fierce rivals in just two seasons. Binnington went 15-11 while recording a.929 Save Percentage in the playoffs, finishing the playoffs with the best Save Percentage among all netminders in the postseason.

By the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the focus will turn to the NHL's superstars. The Flames haven't been able to make it out of the first round since 2015, but the Colorado Avalanche hasn't since 2008.

Against the spread: It pays just -300 to back the Blues at +1.5. But the big prize is now in their sights, the Stanley Cup.

That season was the second straight when the Presidents' Trophy winning team didn't win the Cup.

The Blue Jackets were the busiest club at the trade deadline, and for now, it has paid off as they clinched a wildcard spot in the Eastern conference.

The other matchups from the East will be the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. the New York Islanders and the Boston Bruins vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs. Tampa Bay will win that series in 6 games. With Alex Ovechkin on the offense scoring 51 goals (first in the league) and possessing the deadliest slap shot in the league, there isn't much the Hurricanes (or any team for that matter) can do to stop it. The move did not pay off as the Blue Jackets fell to the Lightning in six games and will likely result in a very different looking team at the start of next season. Players can compete as Hero Teams that combine squads of superstars from the past and present for an ultimate fantasy matchup.

The youthful expression of today's hockey is also represented in NHL 19 where, for the first time, players can create a unique look with lifestyle gear and clothing, including hoodies, jackets, parkas, and knits frame hockey lifestyle brands and unique custom designs. Staal deflected a point shot from Dougie Hamilton and watched the puck bounce hard off the ice before making its way past Braden Holtby. As the postseason brings out the best in every team, it'll be interesting to see if the ceiling of the rest of the Eastern Conference can surpass that of Tampa Bay.

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