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Playoffs And Play-Ins

First, since Sara is on vacation this week, Neil and Geoff talk hockey. There are some fascinating and close matchups in the first round of the playoffs so far, and that’s only with the American teams playing. The Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins have now gone to overtime twice, and that series may come down to whether or not the Caps can stem their wounds at goalie. Geoff thinks the Carolina Hurricanes are well positioned to head into the second round, if not tanned, rested and ready, then in better shape than whatever team wins the battle of Florida. But the Tampa Bay Lightning only sit behind the Colorado Avalanche in our predictions for who will win the Stanley Cup. Neil thinks the Avs have been excellent enough that they could break the President’s Cup Curse, but one of the great things about the NHL is that surprises can come out of anywhere in the postseason. For instance, if Edmonton gets good goaltending, they’ll start to look very formidable.

Next, we turn to the NBA playoffs and its play-in tournament with some help from FiveThirtyEight contributor Jared Dubin. Far from getting the person who came up with it fired, the play-in has resulted in a Lakers-Warriors matchup on Wednesday that has Game-6-of-the-NBA-Finals energy. This playoff looks bright in general, with a bunch of stars back healthy and especially with a potential villain in the Brooklyn Nets, who are finally getting their superteam together at the moment no one cares about them. Then again, that may change once KD, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden get more substantial minutes on the court together. Probably the heaviest expectations fall on the Nets and the Clippers to deliver, with the Lakers having the potential to be the most dangerous 7-seed in decades. And don’t count out the Knicks, either! According to all Knicks fans everywhere, they’re playing with house money.  

Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Neil looks at the unconventional way that the San Francisco Giants have rebuilt their roster, and especially their pitching, since their World Series highs of the early-to-mid ‘10s. Usually teams develop talent from within and build with youth, but the Giants have gotten older and yet also way better. It doesn’t seem like this strategy works with most clubs, but the Giants have been a little weird for a while. It wouldn’t be the most out-of-character thing if this decade they only go to the playoffs in odd numbered years. 

What we’re looking at this week: 

Plus, check out Jared’s piece on how James Harden changed his game in Brooklyn.

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.

Jared Dubin is a New York writer and lawyer. He covers the NFL for CBS and the NBA elsewhere.