B’s Five Stories of the Week

Written by Brendan Kapfer

Author’s note: Before I begin, I want to say that it is good to be back with the Globe and I appreciate all those who have supported me in the last year and all the writing I have done. I want to thank Ashley and Felipe for welcoming me back with open arms to a place that gave me a grand opportunity last year and a golden opportunity this year. I would not be able to grow as a writer without the Globe and I am extremely grateful to be able to return. Let’s get into it. 

I am back covering the biggest stories in the world of sports this week and giving you the update you need and the one you deserve. March Madness starts this week, and I will have an article detailing what to watch for in the big dance this week coming out soon. This week though in B’s Stories of the Week, I get into Bayer Leverkusen’s magical run, the scorching Rockets, the hungry Predators, Harry Kane, and the game of the week. I will have you all updated with everything going on over the next couple of months so stay tuned, for now, check out the big stories of the week.  

Player of the week: Harry Kane – He is the best striker in the world at the current moment. It is a shame that it took him leaving Spurs for the World to see what I have seen for years in that he deserves a hell of a lot of respect. There is also shame in the fact that it could be possible for Harry Kane to go his entire career without winning a trophy. There is a saying about Spurs players that you can a man out of Tottenham, but you cannot take the Tottenham out of him. That is evident for Harry Kane as it is looking more and more unlikely that Bayern Munich will win a trophy this season.  

On a more serious note, though, Harry Kane got hurt in the game against German Club Darmstadt but broke the single-season league record of goals with his thirty-first goal of the Bundesliga season. The injury didn’t seem too bad, but I still want to wish him well. As for what makes him player of the week, he scored two goals against Lazio in a tie in which Bayern trailed going into the second leg which put all the pressure on him. He has carried this team to be in the quarterfinals of the Champions League and has his team barely in the hunt for another Bundesliga but still in the race with his thirty-one goals and seven assists. With each game he plays in, he inches closer to his career record of forty-one goals in a season (in all competitions) and sixteen assists as he currently has thirty-seven goals and ten assists in the season. He is a fun player to watch and a man with a ton of humility which makes him easy to root for.  

Team of the Week: NC State – This is one of the worst years in recent memory for the ACC conference in terms of performance. This conference was supposed to have just four teams in the tournament but then came NC State. NC State was the tenth seed in the ACC Tournament which meant they were going to have to win five games in five days if they wanted to make the big tournament. This includes having to beat a top-four seed in Duke and a top-four team overall team in North Carolina.  

The Wolfpack were the better team in all five games which really says something. They led most of the way in every single game they played in this tournament. In the semifinals and final, they got nineteen- and twenty-point performances from star big man DJ Burns Jr. They somehow found ways to knock out the best three teams in the tournament on consecutive nights and as a result, they are dancing. This is a team that could certainly make some noise in the tournament as they will see Texas Tech in the first round of the tournament on Thursday night. 

Bayer Leverkusen – Leverkusen has yet to lose a game this season and that was not going to change in the Europa League. This Leverkusen team reminds me of the 2019 Ajax team that went all the way to the Champions League final. This team is a team of destiny as they win games, they have absolutely no business of winning. About a year ago, Bayern Munich found themselves in a hole trying to win the Bundesliga as Dortmund was giving them all they could deal with. In the end, Bayern pulled the league out from the hands of Dortmund which had many soccer fans wondering if Bayern would ever not win the Bundesliga again, especially after they signed world-class striker Harry Kane. Then came Leverkusen who are still unbeaten in all competitions this season and beat Bayern by three goals about a month ago.  

In the Round of Sixteen of the Europa League, Leverkusen pulled off a comeback for the ages. Two comebacks matter of fact. In the first leg, Leverkusen went on the road to see Qarabag FK in the first leg and their unbeatable streak was in dire need of a lifeline. Leverkusen got a goal in the seventieth minute from Florian Wirtz that made the game a one-goal affair. In the ninety-second minute, Patrick Shick tied the game up to make the playing field level for when the teams would go back to Leverkusen in the second leg.  

At that point in the tie, Leverkusen was the clear favorite going back home. Leverkusen would end up conceding two goals to Qarabag in the second half of the second leg. Right before the second goal, Qarabag found themselves down a man as one of their players received a red card. It was a shock that they scored almost immediately following the blow. Leverkusen responded with a goal in the 72nd minute but struggled to find the equalizer. In additional time, Patrick Shick tied the game up as he got on the end of a great ball from Alex Grimaldo. At the death, Exequiel Palacios served up a perfect cross for Shick once again to head towards the net and once again he buried the ball to give Leverkusen the win.  

Houston Rockets – The Rockets are sneaking their way into a potential playoff spot. They have won five in a row and in a year where they most certainly could tank to build around the talent they already have, they are trying to make the playoffs. It is still an uphill battle for the Rockets but make no mistake that they are ready for lift-off. The Lakers have been far from consistent as have the Warriors so with the Rockets streaking, they are now only three and a half games back of the last play-in spot.  

This season they are seeing great production from their two young stars. Jalen Green is now in his third year with the Rockets former #1 overall pick Jabari Smith Jr. is in his second year as is breakout star Alperen Sengun. This team has a young core that has clearly grown from their experience last season. They have improved heavily defensively, giving up five fewer points per game, and offensively, they have improved an atrocious offense by three points per game. They ranked bottom three in the entire league in both respective categories, and this year they rank ninth in opponent points per game and twentieth in points per game. Individually, a lot of the statistics are like last season but as a team, this team has better chemistry. Spreading the ball is still a struggle for this team but they have shown an improvement when it comes to chemistry on offense as they have improved their assists per game by 2.3 assists.  

Recently, the Rockets have won each of their last five games in a row and seven of their last eight. Only two of those games were within one possession, one of them was the loss they suffered to the Los Angeles Clippers. This is a team that is not in playoff contention now, but in the last five games they have dismantled two teams who will be in the playoffs. Against the Sacramento Kings, they trailed for most of the first half but then dominated in the second half, where they held the Kings to just fourteen total points in the third quarter. Against the Eastern Conference third-place Cleveland Cavaliers the other night, the Rockets showed up and showed out by spreading the ball out and physically beating up on the Cavs. The Rockets had ten more points in the paint and got a sixteen-assist performance from Fred Van Vleet. This team is red hot right now and plays just two games in the month of March with winning records. 

Nashville Predators –In the NHL, there is a point system that gives teams one point for a loss in overtime or a shootout, two points for a win, and no points for a loss in regulation. Out of the last fourteen games, the Nashville Predators have earned a point in every single one, losing just two in overtime. This includes five wins against teams with winning records and teams who will more than likely make the playoffs. All those wins were by more than one goal, which shows that this is not a fluke run for the Predators.  

On February Sixteenth, the Nashville Predators were on the outside looking in with the NHL Playoffs around the corner and had lost eight of their last ten. Things were not going great in Music City, to say the least, but a win against the St. Louis Blues who were four points ahead of them in that race for the second wild card changed all the momentum for this team. They kept climbing the standings and because they are in the best division in all of hockey, the odds of them not getting a wild card spot are low given they are still behind the third-placed Dallas Stars and they will not play them again in the regular season. Getting to the playoffs though, will not be a challenge for the Predators since they have the eighth easiest schedule remaining and are already seven points ahead of the St. Louis Blues who now trail them for that last spot. If they can keep this momentum going, no team in the Western Conference will want to see them.  

Game of the Week: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Washington Capitals – Both teams are hot right now, but one has been hot for most of the season and one just started to warm up. Both teams are looking to keep their foot on the gas pedal, as the Leafs are looking to put distance between them, and the hunters and the Caps are looking to close the gap between them and their prey. These teams aren’t competing for a playoff spot as the Leafs are twelve points ahead of the Caps, but both teams are playing well enough and have enough at stake that this will be a fun Wednesday night matinee.  

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been one of the best teams in the NHL as of late. They are 12-3-1 in their last fourteen games with the one representing the overtime loss. This includes wins against the Colorado Avalanche and the New York Rangers who both will make the playoffs. As the Leafs look to the postseason, they will want to stay hot as the Lightning who trail them by seven points are starting to get hot and eyeing that coveted three-seed in the Atlantic division. They lost their last game against the Hurricanes in a shootout but are looking to bounce back with a win against the Flyers on Tuesday and against the Caps on Wednesday. 

The Caps are in a mad scramble to get the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. There are five teams separated by five points in the race for the second wild card spot and three teams separated by just one point. As of this moment, the Capitals are one point back of the Detroit Red Wings for that last spot. They have won four of their last six, but one of their two losses includes a thrashing by the Edmonton Oilers where they scored seven goals and won by five. The Caps were struggling for most of this season, including going on a six-game losing streak in January but in their last fourteen games, they have won nine times. They are looking to continue their recent success as they come back from a five-game west coast road trip as they try to find their way into the playoffs.