The NHL concluded its unprecedented 2020 regular season on Sunday with the final round-robin and qualifying-round games. Now, the chase for the Stanley Cup is set to begin in earnest on Tuesday night with four of the eight first-round playoff series getting underway. The remaining four face off on Wednesday.
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One of the more intriguing first-round series pits the fourth-seeded Boston Bruins against the No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes in a rematch of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals, when Boston swept Carolina in four games. Game 1 for the Bruins and Hurricanes will be played at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday in the Toronto bubble.
BRACKETS ARE SET! Make your picks in the #NHLBracket Challenge presented by @adidas prior to the first round of the #StanleyCup Playoffs.
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— NHL (@NHL) August 10, 2020
Boston will look to regain the form it had prior to the four-month coronavirus hiatus, when the Bruins sat in first place in the Eastern Conference. They lost all three of their round-robin games last week to drop to the No. 4 seed.
Carolina, meanwhile, made quick work of the New York Rangers in the qualifying round, dispatching them in three games and moving from sixth place in the East to fifth after re-seeding.
The red-hot Hurricanes will have revenge on their minds throughout the first round. The Bruins will lean on their roster’s veteran savvy and a craving to capture the Stanley Cup title they came so close to a year ago. And many men in both locker rooms will rely on a strong undercurrent of faith in Christ.
Brandon Carlo, a 23-year-old defenseman in his fourth season with the Bruins, has the Bible verse 2 Corinthians 5:7 tattooed on his right forearm: “Live by faith, not by sight.” With the 2020 season delayed for roughly four months, Carlo said he saw God at work during his slower pace of life.
“It’s been interesting to have the time to take a step back and recognize things with faith,” he said in a video conference call with the media in April. “To a point, I think God may be telling us to slow down a little bit in life.”
Jaccob Slavin is the Hurricanes’ equivalent of a young and talented defenseman. Only 26, Slavin is already well established in Carolina with his wife, Kylie, and his daughter, Emersyn, whom they adopted in 2019.
“[Adoption] was definitely something we felt God calling us towards,” Slavin said in the winter 2019 edition of the Sports Spectrum Magazine. “It’s something that’s been on my wife’s heart for a really long time, and something that God really had to kind of change my heart towards. He really worked on my heart for a good year or so … It was Spirit-led for sure.”
Slavin, an alternate Hurricanes captain who appeared on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2017, also said in the magazine piece that even though he is young, God has placed him in the NHL for a reason.
“As Christians, we’re called to reflect Jesus in our lives,” he said. “Being able to do that is huge, and guys see something different about you in the way you live your life or what you put your priorities in.”
Carolina’s primary captain is NHL veteran and centerman Jordan Staal. He and his wife endured horrific pain in February 2018 when their infant daughter, Hannah, died of a terminal birth defect. Staal said his faith in God strengthened as he processed the loss.
“You’ve got to praise God through the good and the bad, and we went through a tough time,” he said in 2019. “But we’re constantly praying and moving forward.”
In the Bruins locker room, a lively chapel service continued remotely even during the suspended 2020 season. The chapel service is led by chaplain and pastor Dave Ripper and includes the likes of former Bruins David Backes and Adam McQuaid and current Bruins Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug and Chris Wagner.
The chapel service has served to strengthen and challenge many Boston players.
“I thought about the sacrifice that Jesus made, the ultimate sacrifice for all of us,” McQuaid told CLNS Media Network this April. “This is a simple way that if I couldn’t sacrifice a little part of me for somebody else in a time like this, then what am I doing?”
McQuaid said he came to a realization of his own.
“No matter how lonely we feel, God is always with you and that’s been a strong presence in my mind and I always believe that. It’s led me to feel more content and try to use the gift that He’s blessed me with just to glorify Him,” he said.
Carlo said that sometimes during games, he takes a moment to remember Who he’s playing for.
“Just looking up to the stands and seeing God sitting there — just an audience of one,” Carlo told CLNS. “And recognizing regardless of what you’re doing on the ice, there’s nothing you can do to disappoint Him.”
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