Sports have returned, as the return of MLB baseball to television screens occurred last week. The NBA and NHL seasons will resume this week, as the NBA starts their seeding games on Thursday. The NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers start this Saturday. There is plenty to look for as sports are returning on television screens across the United States.
Fans are interested to see how the gameday dynamic differs between each of the three sports. Players will have to adjust to playing with no fans and new possible distractions during play. In the NBA, there will be giant video screens behind the basket that could impact the game. It will also be interesting to see how people react to the fake crowd noise in these arenas.
What to Look for In MLB Return: Strategy Changes Amid Rule Changes
The MLB has returned, and there have been a few instances of the minor league rule of having a runner on second base to start extra innings. In the Angels-Athletics game this past Friday, Angels manager Joe Maddon decided to go with a five-person infield once the A’s loaded the bases in the bottom of the 10th inning. It did not matter, as A’s first baseman Matt Olson hit a walk-off grand slam to end the game, but it gave a lens into how managers may try to approach extra innings. The A’s won the game, 7-3.
Another rule change that the MLB implemented even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit was that relief pitchers either had to face three batters. This rule change means that managers cannot use pitchers for individual matchups as readily as they would like. It will be interesting to see if relief pitchers do better or worse because of this rule. Managers will also have to manage their bullpen vastly different now.
One interesting tidbit of information from opening weekend is that no team was swept. Every team has already won a game. The gameplay proved to be competitive. Because of the shortened season, look for less sweeps to happen throughout as teams may have more of a focus on each individual game rather than the whole series.
What to Look for In NBA Return: How Teams Mesh Based on Roster Changes
In the NBA, there are certain teams whose rosters will look vastly different. The Brooklyn Nets will not have either Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant due to injury. They have also had four additional players opt out of the restart. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Andre Roberson made his first appearance in two years.
One of the interesting teams to watch in Orlando will be the Denver Nuggets. Before the pandemic, Nuggets fans were clamoring for Michael Porter Jr. to get more playing time. Now they will campaign to see Bol Bol get more playing time after his great performances in the Nuggets’ scrimmages together. It would be hard for any team to be able to defend a frontcourt with athletes of the caliber of Bol and Nikola Jokic. The Clippers and Lakers are the two favorites out west, but the Nuggets may force their way onto the national radar more if they can get production out of Bol Bol.
What to Look for In NHL Return: How Much Parity Will Be on Display in Stanley Cup Playoff Qualifiers
In the NHL, the 5-12 seeds will be playing five-game series to qualify for the 16-team traditional Stanley Cup Playoff bracket. These series have the potential to be closer to five games because of the long layoff. Still, expect teams with great individual talent on the offensive end to start off fast in this tournament. Some people believe that the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens have chances in their series because of their goaltenders. However, the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins, New York, and Montreal’s respective opponents, have better rosters. I think most of the higher-seeded teams will end up winning these qualifying series.
Also, it will be interesting to see how much the round-robin play for the top four seeds in each conference affects how they will play the rest of the way. One of these teams could technically lose all three of their round-robin games and still win the Stanley Cup. It will be interesting to see which of the top teams is able to peak in these early games, and if that will lead to further success in the playoffs.
Grab your popcorn, chips, or whatever you eat when you watch sports, because there is going to be a lot to watch on your TV screens for the next few weeks.
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