There’s a lot to like in these NHL and NBA playoffs
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Some of the interesting stuff we’ve seen so far:
The Leafs’ comebacks: Toronto could easily be down 3-1 in its series vs. Tampa Bay. Instead, it’s the Lightning who are on the brink of elimination after the Leafs stole Games 3 and 4 in Florida. Toronto scored with one minute left in regulation Saturday and erased a three-goal third-period deficit last night before taking both contests in OT. As the series shifts back to Toronto for Thursday night, the Leafs are one win away from their first playoff series victory in 19 years.
The Oilers’ firepower: Speaking of almost being down 3-1 in a series, Edmonton was staring into that abyss after giving up three unanswered goals in the opening period of Game 4 on Sunday night in Los Angeles. But Oilers superstars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid stepped up with, respectively, two goals and two assists in the second period to even the score, and Edmonton went on to win in OT to square the series. With the NHL’s top two scorers driving the highest-scoring team in the league, the Oilers clearly have the top-end talent to win the Cup. A hot goalie could unlock their full potential, but that remains a work in progress after rookie Stuart Skinner was pulled for Jack Campbell prior to the Game 4 comeback. Skinner confirmed today that he’ll be back in net for Game 5 tonight at 9:30 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network, CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem.
Jimmy Butler’s Buck hunting: The fearless Miami Heat star’s reputation as a big-game player went up another notch last night when he dropped 56 points on Milwaukee to put the NBA’s top regular-season team on the verge of elimination. Only three players — Michael Jordan, Elgin Baylor and Donovan Mitchell — have ever scored more points in an NBA playoff game. A No. 8 seed has beaten a No. 1 just four times, but the massive upset is in play here after Giannis Antetokounmpo missed Games 2 and 3 with a back bruise. The two-time MVP returned with a 26-point triple-double last night, though, so don’t count the Bucks out yet.
Both champs getting challenged by an unlikely foe: The Colorado Avalanche are getting a run for their money from the second-year Seattle Kraken, who evened their series at 2-2 last night when Jordan Eberle scored the first playoff OT goal in franchise history. The Golden State Warriors have their hands full with the Sacramento Kings, who went up 2-0 in their first playoff series in 17 years before losing two straight on the road. Both challengers will have to overcome injuries to their leading scorers as Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox is questionable with a fractured finger while Seattle’s Jared McCann is out for Game 5 after a cheap shot by Cale Makar. The Colorado star was suspended for one game for the hit.
The big swings in the Devils-Rangers series: New York seemed firmly in control of the Hudson River rivals’ first playoff meeting in 11 years after winning Games 1 and 2 in Jersey by the same 5-1 score. But the Devils rebounded with back-to-back wins at Madison Square Garden after making a goaltending change. Swiss rookie Akira Schmid is doing his best Marty Brodeur impression, stopping 57 of 59 shots over his first two playoff appearances.
The NHL’s road warriors: Thanks partly to the away team in the Rangers-Devils series winning all four games so far, visitors are 20-12 in the playoffs. Road teams were on an incredible 11-game winning streak after the Devils, Leafs and Golden Knights prevailed last night, but the run ended when Seattle beat Colorado in OT.