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Four Teams Looking to Survive Tonight

Who stays alive and who goes home tonight?

With four teams on the brink of elimination, it’s almost a guarantee that we’ll see some handshakes tonight. For the teams on the edge, though, the only focus is making it to Game 6. The series haven’t gone the way they had hoped, but one win can swing momentum in a big way. Today, we’re going over the chances each team has at completing an improbable comeback in the first round.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs are hoping a goalie change can inject some life into this series, but it may be too little, too late. After William Nylander missed the first three games, Auston Matthews is now questionable for Game 5 due to illness. The team had a tough enough time without Nylander in the lineup, but if Matthews is forced to sit out, it’s hard to imagine them stealing a win in Boston. Matthews almost singlehandedly got the job done in Game 2, and unless Mitch Marner suddenly finds his game, the hole he leaves in the lineup might be insurmountable. 

For the Bruins, Jeremy Swayman and Brad Marchand have been the biggest difference makers in this series. Swayman has been terrific and holds a 3-0 record, while Marchand has been the best skater on the ice for either team. If Toronto wants to take this series back up north of the border, they’ll need to find a way to eliminate Marchand’s effectiveness. The problem there, though, is that the Bruins’ captain doesn’t need points to make a difference in the game. He’s a great representation of what a team needs in the playoffs, and what Toronto may still lack. 

With Brad Marchand buzzing at home, Swayman playing as well as he is right now, and Auston Matthews’ status up in the air, I think Boston takes care of things tonight and sends Toronto packing. If they do lose, the Maple Leafs are set for a VERY interesting offseason.

New York Islanders

I’m glad they got the one home win, but I think the Islanders are done tonight as well.  The games have all been close and New York has fought valiantly, but with Frederik Andersen doing his thing in the crease, the Hurricanes are simply the better team. The best example of this was the third period of Game 2, where Carolina stormed back from a three-goal deficit with five goals including two in nine seconds. When the momentum is going in their home barn, they come at opposing teams in waves and rarely let up. 

If the Isles want to get this done, they’ll need to play just like they did in Game 4. They don’t have the skill that Carolina does, but if they play their gritty, tough, defensive game, they can give any team in the NHL a real shot. In Game 4, the Isles didn’t allow an even-strength goal, which highlights the importance of discipline for them. Carolina is very good on the powerplay, and New York’s penalty kill is mediocre at best, so staying out of the box is huge tonight. 

We know what New York’s going to try to do tonight. It might not be the most entertaining game to watch, but it’s how this team sticks around in the postseason. Unfortunately, of the four teams on the brink tonight, I think they’ve got the toughest test. Getting a road win in Carolina hasn’t been easy all season, and it certainly won’t be easy tonight. 

Winnipeg Jets

After a big Game 1 win to open the postseason, the Jets have lost three straight and now find themselves on the brink of elimination. Unfortunately, this series is starting to feel eerily similar to last year’s five-game loss to the Golden Knights, and they’re running out of time to turn things around. If they do get the ship back on track, it’ll start with Connor Hellebuyck. The Vezina Trophy favorite leads the postseason in goals allowed and has seen at least four goals go by him in every game so far. His GAA currently sits at an alarming 5.22 goals per game. Yes, the Avs have some of the best players in the world, but clearly, it’s been a disappointing postseason for Hellebuyck. 

Speaking of the Avs’ star players, they’ll be looking to finish things off tonight in Winnipeg. Cale Makar, Nathan Mackinnon and Mikko Rantanen have led this team all season, but the depth of scoring Colorado is getting has been a huge factor in this series, too. The contributions of Artturi Lehkonen, Valeri Nichushkin and Casey Mittelstadt cannot go unmentioned. This secondary scoring has been a bit of a concern for Colorado after their Stanley Cup run in 2022, but if these players continue to produce, we could definitely see the Avs back in the Finals this year.

Of the four teams facing elimination, Winnipeg does have the luxury of being the only team to play at home. I’d give them the best chance to win tonight because of this, but unless Hellebuyck plays his best game of the series, it’ll be tough sledding. A dominant win could change the momentum for them here, but the room for error is now zero against a hot Colorado team. 

Nashville Predators

Finally, we’ve got the Preds. After such a heart-breaking loss in Game 4, the momentum is completely on Vancouver’s side heading into tonight’s do-or-die at Rogers Arena. Nashville controlled the game on Sunday for 57 minutes before Brock Boeser scored twice with the goalie pulled, and now, the series is a game away from being over. If the Preds want to get back to Nashville for Game 6, they’ll need to forget about what happened on the weekend and come out firing. That’s definitely easier said than done, but at this point, they have no other options. 

Of the four teams down 3-1, Nashville is probably the closest to being UP 3-1. They’ve allowed just 71 shots on goal through four games and looked like the better team for the majority of the last two contests at home. However, Vancouver is very good at taking advantage of the chances they get. All season, people have said that their shooting percentages will regress. In the postseason, the number has only gone up. Give this team opportunities on the powerplay like Game 3 or a little life with the goalie pulled like in Game 4, and there’s a decent chance they’ll make you pay. 

I do like Vancouver to finish this series off tonight as well. The goaltending situation is still up in the air, but both guys have proven they can get the job done. The Canucks will absolutely want to get this series wrapped up at home to take some much needed time off, and I think the home crowd will push them to do exactly that.

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