The first round of the playoffs in both the NBA and NHL are over, and boy were they special. Each league’s first round is now over, and at the time of this writing, the semi finals have just gotten underway.. Let’s take a look at some of the storylines for the first round of the NBA and NHL playoffs.
There were some huge upsets from each league, with multiple top seeds losing to teams who barely managed to sneak into the playoffs at all.
The biggest upset of the first round was easily the Panthers knocking off Boston. The Bruins rolled into the NHL playoffs having won the most games and points of any team in the history of the league. Boston even held a demanding 3-1 lead. That didn’t matter to Florida, though.
After somehow pulling out a win in game five, Florida won at home in game six. They played a very sound game in game seven, and scored in overtime to stun the Boston crowd. With Boston’s historic season and commanding hold on the series, this is easily the biggest upset of the first round, and likely will be for years to come.
Another shocking loss came with the Heat knocking off the Bucks in the NBA playoffs. Milwaukee rolled into the playoffs after dominating the Eastern Conference for most of the season. Miami had to grind out a win against Chicago to make it in as the eighth seed.
As seemed to be the mantra with all South-Florida teams this postseason, the Heat didn’t care about the odds, either. Miami steamrolled the Bucks and shockingly beat them in five games. Giannis missed some time with an injury, but even with him on the court, the Bucks didn’t win a game.
No Parade in Memphis
Moving on to the Western Conference, the second-seeded Grizzlies caught the upset bug as well, losing to the Lakers in six games. Memphis has found themselves in the news for non-basketball reasons far too often this season. Perhaps that was the root of their downfall.
Dillon Brooks asked for Lebron to give him 40, and the Grizzlies lost by that exact amount. It’s poetic justice at its finest, and the Grizzlies will have some questions to ask themselves this offseason.
Release the Kraken! (into the second round)
Finally, shifting back to hockey, we saw the defending champs bow out in the first round. Colorado hasn’t looked as dominant as usual this season, but they were still able to lock down the Central division, setting up a matchup against the Seattle Kraken, who made the NHL playoffs for the first time in their two-year history.
This series was back and forth, and actually turned out to be very evenly-matched. Colorado winning games two and three was the only time a team in this series won two games in a row, and almost every game was a dogfight. The Kraken managed to sneak out of game seven with a win, and have won their first playoff series in franchise history.
The End(s) of Dynasties
It’s hard to determine exactly what a dynasty is. It’s even harder to understand when they end. In the case of the Golden State Warriors, we still don’t know.
Golden State won three championships in four years, before facing off with Toronto in the 2019 NBA Finals. The Warriors lost that series in six games, with Klay Thompson tearing his ACL in that game-six loss. With his injury, and a shocking defeat in the Finals, many thought their dynasty was over. In the next couple of years, the Warriors would struggle at times, but are currently the reigning, defending champions after defeating the Celtics in 2022.
This year, Golden State went down 2-0 to the Kings in the first round, and once again people assumed it was their downfall. Once again, they were wrong. Golden State came back to win in seven games, and will try and beat the Lakers in the second round. Whether they do or not remains to be seen. In the same vein, as these playoffs unfold, we wait to see when the true end to this dynasty will be.
Then, in the hockey world, we may have actually witnessed a dynasty fall. The Lightning won two championships in a row in 2020 and 2021, and nearly won their third straight before losing to the Colorado Avalanche in 2022.
This year, they faced the same Toronto Maple Leafs team they defeated last year. In a bit of an ironic twist, this time around, the Leafs broke their own first round curse, while ending Tampa Bay’s dynasty. At least for now.
Iconic Second-Round Matchups
Across the board, in both leagues, we have some very exciting second round matchups. Let’s start with the NBA playoffs.
There is no more iconic matchup on this list than Lebron James and Stephen Curry. These two are easily both top-10 players of all time, and have faced each other in the Finals four times. With Steph at the age of 35, and Lebron 38, this second-round matchup might be the last time we see these two play.
Apart from that duel, we still have some interesting series across the NBA playoffs landscape. The Suns and Nuggets are currently in a rematch from their 2021 second round series, with the Nuggets on pace to get their revenge. The Heat and Knicks, two teams that came out with upset victories in the first round, are deadlocked 1-1 at the time of this writing. Finally, the Sixers-Celtics keep their rivalry alive with their playoff series, also knotted at one win apiece at the time of writing.
In the NHL playoffs, the second-round matchups focus more on the new kids on the block. The Kraken are fresh off their upset win, and survived a four-goal effort from Joe Pavelski in game one. The Devils knocked the Rangers out in the first round, and now face the gauntlet that is the Carolina Hurricanes. Then, in a matchup between two teams that haven’t made it out of the first round in a long time, the Panthers and Leafs play for a spot in the conference finals.
Finally, in the West, we have the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights. These teams match up pretty evenly. What’s most compelling, though, is the fact that we’ll be seeing the #1 and #2 draft picks from the 2015 NHL draft. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel have both had great careers with very different trajectories up until this point. It will be very interesting to see who comes out on top in their first playoff matchup.