Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers – 2/25 @ Heinz Field
Usually reserved for the Winter Classic around New Year’s Day, the NHL has expanded its outdoor schedule due to high demand from the fans. This game should be one of the best to date in the NHL Stadium Series as well. The Pittsburgh Penguins–Philadelphia Flyers rivalry is one of the most heated in the league.
Pittsburgh is on fire this season. The defending Stanley Cup Champions are picking up right where they left off. Sidney Crosby recently reached another NHL milestone as he became the 86th player in NHL history to tally 1,000 points.
Evgeni Malkin is still a huge factor in their offense. Known mostly for his incredible ability to score, Malkin has become the playmaker this year. He leads the team with 35 assists. Goalie Matt Murray is one of the youngest keepers in the league at 22. However, he is gaining valuable experience at such a young age, and is becoming an asset for the Pens.
The Flyers will look to play the role of spoiler during Pittsburgh’s party at Heinz Field, the usual home of the Steelers. Philly has an outside chance at a playoff spot, but with end of the season nearing they will need to start winning. A win against their heated rivals could set them up for a late season run. All-Star MVP Wayne Simmonds leads the team with 25 goals, and winger Jakub Voracek has tallied 49 points. This duo will need to step up in this game for the Flyers to have a chance to win. Chipping away at Murray’s confidence will be key.
A win in this game for Pittsburgh gets them that much closer to the #1 seed in the East. A Philadelphia win could potentially tie them for the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Chicago Bulls – 2/25 @ Quicken Loans Arena
A game that features LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on separate teams will always be interesting. The two won a couple championships while teammates on the Miami Heat. However, just a couple years removed from that, the two are now on separate teams. The King returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers and D Wade has since returned home to play for the Chicago Bulls.
LeBron fulfilled his promise to the city of Cleveland by winning an NBA title, and Wade is playing some productive basketball in front of his hometown fans. Interestingly enough, this could very well be a first round playoff match up.
The Cavaliers have battled through some crucial injuries, and still find themselves atop the Eastern Conference. LeBron and Kyrie Irving have been putting on a display all season long. The Cavs and their fans will welcome back J.R. Smith and Kevin Love in March. Both are recovering from injuries that occurred earlier in the season.
Chicago has battled chemistry issues all season, but their talented roster has kept them afloat. All-Star Jimmy Butler has been one of the brightest young stars in the NBA and has teamed up with Wade and Rajon Rondo. The Bulls’ deficiencies stem from their lack of offensive versatility. This will be a tough game for Chicago, but Wade usually saves his best games for when he faces off against his good friend LeBron James.
Kentucky Wildcats vs. Florida Gators – 2/25 @ Rupp Arena
College basketball is reaching the home stretch. One of the most exciting times for all sports fans is March Madness. With that in mind, every game left in the regular season has a monumental impact. Bubble implications and conference tournament seeding is now part of the equation.
In the SEC, the top spot in the conference standings is still up for grabs. Florida has already beaten Kentucky on their home floor, and now the Wildcats are looking to return the favor at a critical point in the season.
Florida is currently 23-5 on the season, and 13-2 in conference play. The Gators have a trio of upperclassmen that are playing some of the best basketball in their career. Kasey Hill, Devin Robinson and Canyon Barry are integral parts of the Florida offense. Hill is the floor general while Robinson is an athletic wing that can score and guard. Barry comes off the bench and is a lethal shooter from 3-point range. He is one of of the leading candidates for Sixth Man of the Year in the SEC.
As for Kentucky, it’s a different year, but the same story. Their freshman have steadily matured over the course of the season, and heading in to March they are looking like a viable contender. Malik Monk and DeAaron Fox are both strong candidates for SEC Freshman of the Year as well as SEC Player of the Year.
Coach John Calipari is as pivotal of a piece as any of the players on his team. His tough love approach guides his team when the biggest games of the season are upcoming. This Saturday, Kentucky’s will and toughness will be tested as they go for another SEC regular season championship.
Washington Wizards vs. Golden State Warriors – 2/28 @ Verizon Center
With a record of 47-9, the Golden State Warriors have been hot all season. However, no team has played better in 2017 than the Washington Wizards. Their ascension in the Eastern Conference has been shocking due to their previous form. John Wall has been on a tear, but he has not done it alone.
He is getting help from young athletic forwards that are finding their game in the extremely difficult NBA. Otto Porter Jr., Kelly Oubre, and Markieff Morris are all versatile players that can shoot the three almost as well as they can shoot the three. Those two skills are some of the most important in the rapidly changing NBA.
On the other hand, Golden State has continued to be a well-oiled machine. All-Stars Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant have yet to peak this season, a scary thought for the rest of the league.
This will be a pivotal match up with the Wizards to see where they stack up with the league’s elite. So far, their run has consisted of taking advantage of teams that are sliding in the opposite direction of Washington. They lost an overtime thriller to Cavaliers recently, so another major test looms when the Wizards defend their home court against the Warriors.
Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – 3/1 @ TD Garden
Throughout his career, LeBron James has had one constant thorn in his side. The Boston Celtics have tried to thwart the ascension of King James ever since he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003. He has faced them numerous times in the Eastern Conference Playoffs with varying levels of success. When Boston had a Big 3 that consisted of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, their constant pressure forced LeBron to leave for Miami.
In Miami, he gained the upper hand in the rivalry and exacted revenge every chance he could get. In turn, his dominance cause Boston to disband and rebuild. LeBron has since returned to Cleveland and fulfilled the only goal he had in his career, winning a title for the city that helped raise him.
Boston has slowly but surely rebuilt as well. With Isaiah Thomas, a player who couldn’t be more different from LeBron, the Celtics are once again nipping at his heels.
The Cavaliers currently have a three game lead over the Celtics in the Eastern Conference, and this game could easily be the Eastern Conference Finals preview.
The two stars recently spent All-Star weekend together as teammates, but expect the atmosphere to be drastically different in the hostile environment that is TD Garden.
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