Ahh! The fresh air of spring! The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer, baseball has gone into day in and day out mode! This can only mean one (or actually two) things…..Arena sports playoff season is almost upon us! With the regular season in both the NHL and NBA coming to a close this week there is so much to be settled.
The National Hockey League will close its regular season today. The National Basketball Association closes for regular business on Wednesday. The Stanley Cup Playoff schedule will be announced late tonight, same for the NBA when all is done on Wednesday.
Toronto Maple Leafs clinch the final playoff spot in the NHL Eastern Conference last night.
Last night, as my wife Robin and I cheered on our Florida Panthers in their home finale, there was so much scoreboard (or should I say smart-phone watching) going on. Coming in to last night there was one final spot to be decided in the Eastern Conference. The Toronto Maple Leafs needed a win to secure the final spot, the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning were right behind them. Oh and by the way there was a basketball game going on down the road in Miami with playoff implications that we were keeping an eye on. More on that later.
As we were leaving the BB&T Center I got a text from a friend of mine saying simply “Leafs in.” When we left the building following the Panthers 3-0 victory over Buffalo the game between the Leafs and Penguins was in a 2-2 tie. The Islanders had already beaten the New Jersey Devils and the Lightning were off.
Although the field is set in the NHL’s Western Conference the first round pairings are still up in the air. The top seed already belongs to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks will be taking on the number 2 Wild Card winning Nashville Predators in the first round. Nashville finished their season last night with a 2-1 loss in Winnipeg, while the Calgary Flames (#1 Wild Card) lost their season finale in San Jose by the score of 4-1. Calgary and Nashville finish the season tied at 94 points, Calgary won the Wild Card battle by a tiebreaker.
The last piece of business in the NHL is the top spot in the Pacific Division. Coming into play today, the Anaheim Ducks have a two point lead over the second place Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton holds the tiebreaker between the teams. Both teams finish at home tonight. Anaheim will host its Southern California rivals, the Los Angeles Kings in their season, and home finale. The Oilers will finish against the Vancouver Canucks (also on home ice). The Kings will be gunning for the Ducks and would love to play spoilers in a very heated crosstown rivalry.
Not to be outdone by the NHL, there is so much going on in the NBA as their season heads for a close.
The defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers currently hold a half game lead over the Boston Celtics for top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs have three games remaining, the Celtics have two left. The last two playoff spots in the East are still up for grabs. As of this morning the Indiana Pacers have a one game lead over the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat. Chicago and Miami have identical records, the Bulls hold the tiebreaker.
The Celtics are giving Lebron and Company a run for their money.
The last playoff spot in the Western Conference is still up for grabs. The Portland Trail Blazers are currently in the driver’s seat, with a game and a half lead over the Denver Nuggets. Portland has two games left, Denver has three remaining.
This week should be interesting in both sports. The Stanley Cup playoffs will open, the NBA regular season comes to a close, and then the real fun starts!