One of the most intriguing aspects of sports is the emotion it elicits when they are played at the highest level. In the coming week, we’ll get a look at some of the best rivalries in sports. In these games, players leave it all out on the field, court or ice.
There will also be desperation games being played this weekend as well. Similarly, players can sense when their season is hanging by a thread. As a result, the passion and intensity is ratcheted up, and the game is usually must-see. Let’s start there.
Edmonton Oilers vs. San Jose Sharks – Game 5, Western Conference Quarterfinals – 4/20 @ Rogers Place
Almost as pivotal as Game 7, Game 5 is a huge point in any series. Moreover, when the series is tied at 2, this game becomes must-win. A team will have a chance to seize the upper hand in this series and be one win away to earning a spot in the second round.
For three games in this series, the games were very close and defensive-minded. However, last night the San Jose Sharks blew the doors off of the Edmonton Oilers defense. A decisive 7-0 win certainly sent a message to the Oilers.
San Jose reached the Stanley Cup Finals last season, so a first round exit was not in their plans this year. They have been tamed by Edmonton but were able to respond in Game 4. Veterans Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture were the catalysts for the dominant win, and will look to continue to score more goals as the series gets more intense.
As for Edmonton, the next NHL star is still trying to find his footing in this series. Connor McDavid has a goal and an assist in four games, and will need to close out the series exceptionally well if Edmonton wants to pull off the upset.
Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics – Game 3, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals – 4/21 @ United Center
One team has a 2-0 series lead in this first round playoff series, but not the team you would think. The Boston Celtics worked hard to steal the 1 seed from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the regular season, but it is not turning out to be the reward they hoped it would. The savvy collection of veterans that the Chicago Bulls have is proving too much for the Celtics at this point.
Jimmy Butler is spearheading the upset for the 8th seeded Bulls. Veterans Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade are chipping in as well, and the Chicago bench has also been pivotal. Now that the series heads back to Chicago, the Bulls will feel pressure for the first time this series. Although, the Celtics are in a must-win situation, Chicago needs to win at home to not let Boston back in the series.
Some things to look for in this game is the play of Isaiah Thomas. He is currently dealing with the tragic loss of his sister while trying to play basketball. The task is daunting but he will head home to Seattle to spend time with his family before Game 3. His courage and grit is nothing short of amazing, as one can only imagine how hard it is to maintain his stoic demeanor to lead his team.
As for the Bulls, their bench has been unbelievable. Bobby Portis stepped up in Game 1, and Paul Zipser did the same in Game 2. Who will step up in Game 3 as Chicago tries to pull off the upset?
El Clasico – Real Madrid vs. Barcelona – 4/23 @ Santiago Bernabéu
As far as rivalries are concerned, this is one of the best. El Clasico doesn’t always get the publicity it deserves due to the fact that it takes place across the Atlantic Ocean. However, Spain and soccer fans across the world lock in on Madrid or Barcelona, depending on who is hosting.
The game is usually the most important in the entire season due to title implications. Real Madrid and Barcelona are powerhouses in La Liga, the country’s top division of soccer. Barcelona has dominated over the last decade with Real Madrid sprinkling in a few titles as well. Real Madrid has experienced Champions Leagues success instead. The defending champs of club soccer’s most prolific tournament are on a roll.
Cristiano Ronaldo has briefly assumed the role of the world’s best player as a result. Lionel Messi is still on his heels, but Barcelona’s form of late is troubling.
Despite recent struggles when it comes to winning La Liga, the title is Real Madrid’s to lose this season. A win in this game would pretty much seal the deal for Los Blancos. Expect Ronaldo to continue his impressive form and lead Real Madrid to a much needed win.
San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers – 4/25 @ AT&T Park
Don’t worry, the biggest rivalry in baseball is yet to come, but Giants/Dodgers is no slouch either. There is no love lost between these two interstate rivals, and even in April this game will be intense. Neither team has gotten off to a desirable start this season. The Giants are last in the NL West while the Dodgers are currently sitting in third.
With teams that normally have World Series aspirations, this is not the start they were hoping for. Fans will be in for a treat when they attend this one. A pitching match up that features two of the game’s best, currently and possibly all-time, will be going down Tuesday night.
Madison Bumgarner vs. Clayton Kershaw will have baseball fans across the nation tuning in to see this duel. With 10 All-Star Appearances, 3 Cy Young Awards, a World Series MVP and 228 wins between them, these aces are well on their way to Canton.
These two will square off in the second game of a four game series between the two rivals. A series win would go a long way for both teams in terms of getting their season going in the right direction.
Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees – 4/26 @ Fenway Park
After a prolific year on offense, the Sox offense is slumping. Some nights they can’t miss, other nights they struggle to plate a run. This inconsistency is frustrating. Their starting pitching has been effective, but the bullpen is an adventure for now.
Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez are starting to come around, but are not nearly as productive as they need to be. However, offseason acquisition Mitch Moreland is proving to be worth the money early on this season.
As for the Yankees, no one pegged them to be a first place team this season. With a lot of turnover and turmoil from last season, this hot start is a bit surprising. They are currently tied for 1st in the AL East, one of baseball’s toughest divisions. Starlin Castro and Chase Headley are hitting everything in the zone early in the season as both of their averages are hovering around .400.
Rookie Aaron Judge is hitting everything a loooong way. His 5 home runs and 12 RBI are currently leading the team.
In this contest, offense will likely take a back seat. Chris Sale has been dominant for the Red Sox, while Masahiro Tanaka is off to a productive start also. Tanaka is 2-1 while Sale is 1-1. Sale’s numbers are much more impressive, he just needs to start getting more run support. He has recorded 29 Ks (AL leader) and has a minuscule ERA of 1.25 (6th in the AL).
Whichever team can crack the code against these impressive pitchers will likely walk away with the win.
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