What is going on with the Red Sox?

If you’re a Boston Red Sox fan, you probably had high expectations for the 2019 season. After winning a franchise-high number of games and eliminating every playoff opponent with relative ease, the club brought back nearly every member of the 2018 squad.

There were a few questions surrounding the bullpen and closer spot, but still, Red Sox Nation marched into Opening Day in high spirits. New England was ready for another great season and, hopefully, a second consecutive World Series championship.

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NHL First Round Playoff Preview: Islanders vs. Penguins

The Islanders fired their coach and GM at the end of last season, and then lost their star player John Tavares to Toronto. This year was supposed to be a transition year from the Tavares era into the new era of defense and structure under coach Barry Trotz. Instead, the Islanders exceeded all expectations, excelling in the regular season under Trotz’s system and earning home ice for the first time since 1988. Now, they look to translate that regular season success into playoff success, looking to win their second series since 1993 and first Cup since 1983.

Meanwhile, the Penguins have enjoyed lots of success in the Crosby era, making the playoffs for their thirteenth straight season. In that span, they have won three Cups (including two of the last three), made the Cup Finals four times, and the conference final five times. However, last year, the Ovechkin-led Capitals finally got the better of them in the second round. The Penguins are hungry to get back to the promised land and win their third Cup in four years, cementing them as one of the great dynasties in NHL history.

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NHL First Round Playoff Preview: Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs have had quite the turnaround from their miserable state a couple of years ago, ascending to prominence behind a talented young core led by burgeoning superstar Auston Matthews. However, the Leafs have yet to break through with this core in the playoffs. They gave Washington all they could handle in the first round two years ago, and last year couldn’t quite overcome a 3-1 deficit to the rival Bruins. Having acquired superstar John Tavares in the offseason, the expectation is to not just make the playoffs, but win once they reach them and eventually hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time since the original six era (1967).

Their journey yet again begins in Boston, against their old rivals, the Bruins. The Bruins have reestablished themselves as one of the titans of the east with three straight playoff appearances and two straight hundred-point seasons. The Bruins have experienced some success in the last decade or so, winning a Cup in 2011 and making another Final in 2013. The Bruins will lean on their experienced core plus some of their talented youth to bring them back to the Finals and potentially win their second Cup this decade.

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NHL First Round Playoff Preview: Lightning vs. Blue Jackets

After a historic regular-season where they tied the record for wins in a single season (62), the Lightning have established themselves as the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. They have enjoyed a nice stretch of success in the Stamkos era, making the playoffs five of the last six seasons and making four conference finals since 2011, including one appearance in the Cup Finals. However, this year looks like their best opportunity to break through and finally win their first Cup since 2004; in fact, with how good the Lightning are, it may be Cup or bust.

Meanwhile, this is the most successful stretch in Blue Jackets history, having made the postseason for the third consecutive season. However, they have yet to do anything in the playoffs, having only won five playoff games in their 19th year of existence, the only franchise that has yet to win a playoff series. After their well-documented collapse against the Capitals in last year’s playoffs (blowing a 2-0 series lead coming home), the Jackets now look to take down Goliath and win their first series in franchise history, and potentially more.

John Tortorella was the head coach of the Lightning when they won their only Cup back in 2004. Now, as coach of the Blue Jackets, this is the first time he will coach in a playoff series against his former team. Will the Lightning steamroll past their former coach on their quest to cement their legacy as one of the greatest teams of all time? Or, can Tortorella pull something from up his sleeve and lead the Blue Jackets to defeat the behemoth and win their first ever playoff series?

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