First, we check in with Round 3 of the NHL playoffs. The New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning are pretty evenly matched: While the Islanders came into the series as the lower-rated team, they’ve been able to play as more than the sum of their parts and surprise the Lightning. Of course, some of that may have to do with the fact that this is the first time teams from different regions are really getting to test each other. Although the Vegas Golden Knights may not be facing that much of a test in the Montreal Canadiens: The Habs’ surprisingly deep playoff run has involved a little bit of luck and a lot of excellent goal-tending, but Vegas is perhaps too complete (and too healthy) a team for that luck to hold. It would be fun if a Canadian team finally broke the Great White North’s Stanley Cup drought. But this may not be the team to do it.
Next, we turn to the world of golf, which has gotten a lot more fun ahead of the U.S. Open with the simmering rivalry between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau now on full boil. Feuds are good for sports generally, and one between two golfers who match up as closely as Koepka and DeChambeau do is, we think, a productive step for a sport that has long been about one player’s greatness. It’s also perfect timing for this battle between two players who would both be in WWE’s stable of heels, as the U.S. Open plays more to Koepka and DeChambeau’s strengths than it does to, say, Jordan Speith’s. There are a ton of fun things to watch for at the tournament, from Jon Rahm’s return to Phil Mickelson’s bid to beat back age itself. We hope that Brooks and Bryson getting paired up on the last day is one of them.
Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Neil froze the baseball season in place and looked at who would have been heading to the postseason if the 2021 season ended last week at the same number of games it did in 2020. There aren’t many omissions (with regrets to Sara’s Twins) from the list of last year’s playoff teams, but the new contenders are a bit surprising, as is the order they’re in. The San Francisco Giants would have been standing at No. 1 in the NL, while in the AL we would have gotten a matchup between the No. 1 Red Sox and No. 8 Yankees — which would have had national broadcast media salivating. We’re all still glad this is a 162-game season and not a 60-game season, but it’s impressive that the playoff picture already looks set, mostly. Hang in there, Atlanta.
What we’re looking at this week:
- The weird Stanley Cup semifinals are weird.
- Will the Tampa Bay Lightning make history?
- Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau’s feud is a win for golf.
Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer. @sarahshachat
Sara Ziegler is the sports editor at FiveThirtyEight. @saramziegler
Neil Paine is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight. @Neil_Paine
Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight. @gwfost