Danny’s Can’t-Miss Games of the Week: NHL and NBA playoffs heating up

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask makes a save during the third period of Game 7 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tuesday, April 23, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

By the time you are reading this, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be officially in the second round and majority of the NBA first-round series will have been decided. We have had a lot of great games so far in both playoffs, and things will only get better as we move forward.

In addition, the MLB is in full swing and there are a number of surprises both positive (Mariners) and negative (Red Sox). This weekend will have a ton of must-watch games in every sport so stay tuned.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Boston Bruins

Game 1 on Thursday April 25, 7 p.m. on NBCSN

The Blue Jackets are coming off a historic upset in which they not only beat the No. 1 seed Tampa Bay Lightning, but also swept them away. The Lightning tied an NHL record with 62 wins in the regular season, but they wound up on the wrong side of history once the playoffs started. They became the first team ever to win the President’s Trophy and get swept in the first round.

Needless to say, Columbus has a ton of momentum going into this series. They got to rest after a quick sweep while their opponent, the Bruins, grinded through a long seven-game series that just ended on Tuesday with a 5-1 win.

It will be interesting to see who wins out in this series, the storybook team that’s been resting, or the team that is coming off of back-to-back wins with their backs against the wall.

The Bruins’ series with the Toronto Maple Leafs was an absolute battle. The two teams went at each other hard in every game and left everything they had out on the ice. This may be a disadvantage in the second round because they are not nearly as well rested as the Blue Jackets, who finished their series over a week ago. However, it also may be an advantage because the Bruins have already played in a lot of high-intensity games in the playoffs, while the Blue Jackets haven’t really played in any.

Columbus outscored Tampa Bay 19-9 in the easy four-game sweep. Nobody expected that kind of dominance from them, and it will definitely be exciting to see if that success will carry over into the series with Boston.

NBA: Denver Nuggets vs. San Antonio Spurs

Game 6 on Thursday April 25, 8 p.m. on TNT

As of the time I’m writing this article, this series is the only one in the NBA Playoffs first round to go six games. This is quite the opposite of the NHL Playoffs which saw three series go seven games. The top seed won in five games or fewer in five series so far, and two more may end in the same fashion on Wednesday night.

That leaves this as the only real interesting series in the playoffs so far. They split the first two games in Denver and then split the next two games in San Antonio as well. The Nuggets won Game 5 108-90 to go up 3-2 in the series on Tuesday night. Jamal Murray led the team with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting in that game.

The Nuggets were the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference while the Spurs were seventh, but this series has been evenly matched. The Spurs have played well thanks to the emergence of Derrick White, who had a career night with 36 points in their Game 3 win. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge have also played key roles for the Spurs in the series.

For the Nuggets, it has mostly been Murray and Nikola Jokic who have been carrying the team this series. They will try to carry the team to a series win Thursday in Game 6 while the Spurs will be looking to hang around for a possible Game 7 upset. This may not have been the series that people were looking at before the playoffs, but it has turned into the best matchup of the first round.

MLB: Cleveland Indians vs. Houston Astros

Nationally televised games: Saturday April 27, 4 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 and Sunday April 28, 7 p.m. on ESPN

The best matchup in baseball this weekend is a rematch of last year’s ALDS, which Houston won three games to none. This weekend, the Astros and Indians will face off for the first time this season in a four-game series in Houston.

This season, the Astros got off to a rough start, but a 10-game winning streak got them back on track. They currently have the third best record in the AL at 14-9.The Indians sit in second place in the AL Central with a 13-10 record.

With the exception of Trevor Bauer, who has been unbelievable with a 2.20 ERA and 42 strikeouts in five starts, the starting pitching for the Indians has not been great, but overall they sit at seventh in the majors with a 3.58 team ERA. However, on offense they have been really struggling. Carlos Santana is the only starter who has an average of over .300, at .338. In fact, they have the third-worst team average in the MLB at .213.

On the other side, the Astros have the best team average in the majors at .280. Josh Reddick leads the team with a .373 average so far, while Alex Bregman is right behind him at .315. Jose Altuve has had a power surge to start the year, as he has already hit nine home runs and driven in 20 RBIs this year.

For pitching, it has been Justin Verlander leading the otherwise-mediocre staff with a 3-0 record and a 3.00 ERA in five starts. The Astros bullpen has been one of the best in baseball though, registering just a 3.00 ERA, good for second in the league behind the San Francisco Giants.

This should be a really good series that features some solid pitching on both sides, and there is no shortage of star power in either lineup, especially with Francisco Lindor being back and healthy for Cleveland.


Danny Barletta is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.barletta@uconn.edu.