Thursday night saw two series wrap up, with the Chicago Blackhawks (swept by Nashville) and Columbus Blue Jackets (defeated by the Penguins in five) joining the Calgary Flames as the first post-season teams tossed from contention.
Here are some storylines we’re looking at as we gear up for two big playoff games Friday night.
vs. Game 5
7 p.m. ET, CBC | Series tied 2-2
“It’s a pinball machine out there a little bit,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz told reporters on Thursday.
The pinball favoured Washington in Wednesday night’s Game 4, with the Capitals coming out strong while putting together a four-goal first period.
The Maple Leafs rallied in the third, but the game-winning goal came thanks to a mix-up in the Leafs zone and an open T.J. Oshie was more than happy to turn Toronto’s bad bounce into a tied-up series.
“We weren’t very good last night and still, in the end, it was a one-goal game, wasn’t it?” Babcock said on Thursday.
It’s a new series now, a best of three heading back to Washington with the winner quite possibly coming down to a lucky break and a bad bounce.
And, now for a quick history lesson from 66 years ago today:
vs. Game 5
7:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet | Senators lead series 3-1
After opening the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a loss, the Senators have won three straight games against the Bruins to push their first-round foes to the brink of elimination. Now, the Senators have a chance to become this year’s first Canadian team to move on to Round 2.
The Senators have had a rotating cast of heroes through the first four games of this series. Bobby Ryan has shaken off his disappointing regular season and is shining bright in the playoffs; Derick Brassard is providing the veteran presence Pierre Dorion brought him in for; and Erik Karlsson is playing like Erik Karlsson with teammates tossing around terms like “best player in the world” (no big deal).
But the real difference-maker thus far in Round 1 has been goaltender Craig Anderson.
With the exception of a second period blip in Game 2, Anderson has been solid in net for Ottawa and put forth his finest effort Wednesday night in Game 4. The netminder made 22 saves for his fourth career playoff shutout (third with the Senators).
Now on the brink of elimination and on Ottawa ice, the Bruins know they need to come out fast and strike often if they want to beat Anderson, and Tuukka Rask will need to be the strong goalie we saw in Games 1 and 4 if Boston wants to survive and bring the series back home.
The team has no choice now than to play with one of hockey’s most beloved cliches in mind: one game at a time.
“The message for us is we need to win one in a row three times,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters on Thursday. “We’ve also been a team as recently as the end of the year that won six in a row, so I think our guys know that we’re capable of stringing together wins, so that part of it, the mental part of it, we’ve done recently.
“And the way we’ve lost a lot of those games is we’re right there. The difference in the game is a play or two, it’s not like they dominated, we don’t feel that way…for us it’s a play or two here or there. It just starts with Friday night.”