Playoffs Tonight: Have Rangers started a comeback vs Capitals?

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We got another night full of first-round action ahead of us, including two big Game 5s against teams that have split their series so far.

Please keep in mind that you can watch all these games online in addition to the channels listed below:

Game 4: Toronto Maple Leafs host Boston Bruins (7:00 p.m. ET, CNBC)
Boston leads series 2-1

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ first home playoff game since 2004 was spoiled by the Boston Bruins on Monday. Now the Leafs have to refocus on at least claiming one game at the Air Canada Centre so that the series is tied when they go back to Boston.

One thing the Bruins have done exceedingly well so far is to keep the pressure on 25-year-old goaltender James Reimer. He’s faced a minimum of 37 shots in each game this series and the Bruins consequently lead the league in shots per game in the playoffs.

Reimer has allowed four goals on two separate occasions as a result of that onslaught and the Maple Leafs lost both of those games.

Game 4: New York Rangers host Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Washington leads series 2-1

The New York Rangers got defenseman Marc Staal back from his scary eye injury on Monday and their offense finally woke up en route to a 4-3 victory over Washington. Although Staal didn’t do anything special from a purely statistic perspective in his 2013 postseason debut, his return shouldn’t be overlooked.

“It’s huge. He makes the D-core calm,” Rangers forward Derek Stepan, who netted the game-winning goal, told the New York Post. “He’s got a presence about him that he can just control a game. He did a great job tonight.”

We’ll see if that win marked a turning point in this series or if the Capitals will bounce back and find a way to contain the Rangers’ forwards once more.

Game 5: St. Louis Blues host Los Angeles Kings (9:00 p.m. ET, CNBC)
Series tied at 2-2

The Blues’ two-game lead has been squandered, but the news isn’t all bad for St. Louis.

First off, all four games have been won by the home team and St. Louis has the edge in that department as the fourth seed. Additionally, all four games have been decided by just one goal, so just as they couldn’t claim too much momentum after taking a 2-0 lead, the Kings can’t suggest they have a lot now even after evening the series.

“I don’t think our confidence is shaken here,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “If anything, we’re just disappointed with what happened because we know we could have done better.”

It’s also worth noting that Kings forward Jeff Carter got his first goal of the series in Game 4 and he typically scored in bunches during the regular season. If that trend holds true in the playoffs, then Carter might be the difference in this series.

Game 5: Anaheim Ducks host Detroit Red Wings (10:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Series tied at 2-2

There have been two overtime games in this series and Detroit has taken both of them. You might think that’s a sign of their immense playoff experience, and it probably has helped, but the people actually scoring the OT winners have been 23-year-old Gustav Nyquist and rookie Damien Brunner.

A number of Detroit’s younger players have been given sizable roles in this series as the team tries to both simultaneously rebuild and compete after losing several key veterans over the last couple of years.

On the other end, keep an eye on Anaheim’s Corey Perry, who has no goals and just one assist through four games. Perry has been a very effective forward in previous playoff runs and the Red Wings will have a hard time containing him for the remainder of the series.

Goalie nods: Blues give Hutton first start in two weeks

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Even though Jake Allen has played extremely well of late, Carter Hutton will get the call when the Blues take on the Coyotes in Arizona tonight.

Some of this could have to do with the opponent. The Coyotes are playing out the string on a forgettable campaign, and have lost six of their last seven. That includes a 4-1 defeat in St. Louis on Monday (in which Allen stopped 27 of 28 shots for the win).

As mentioned above, Allen has been great in March and deserves huge praise for turning his season around. He’s gone 8-1-1 this month with a remarkable .951 save percentage, allowing a mere 14 goals over his 10 appearances.

Hutton, though, has played equally well when called upon. He’s gone 4-1-0 over his last five starts, posting a .962 save percentage and a pair of shutouts. In his last outing, on Mar. 16, he allowed just one goal in a victory in San Jose.

For the Coyotes, Louis Domingue is in goal.

Elsewhere…

— A good matchup in Pittsburgh tonight, as the two defending Stanley Cup champions go head-to-head. Marc-Andre Fleury starts for the Penguins, while Corey Crawford goes for the Blackhawks.

— Calgary can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight so, unsurprisingly, it’ll go with No. 1 Brian Elliott. No word yet on who starts for the visiting Kings, though it could be Ben Bishop after Jonathan Quick lost last night in Edmonton.

Philipp Grubauer gets the call for Washington, after Braden Holtby led the Caps to victory in Minnesota on Tuesday. Grubauer will take on Calvin Pickard, who starts for the Avs.

Vegas wants ‘progressive’ head coach, says McPhee

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Golden Knights GM George McPhee continued to list the characteristics he wants from a head coach this week, explaining that he’s searching for a forward-thinking bench boss.

“We want someone who is very current on the game, who is progressive on how the game should be played,” McPhee said in a recent phone call with season ticket holders, per the club website. “We’re looking for that progressive guy that can really help us through the early years and help develop our team and our players.”

So, time to connect the dots.

Back in November, Vegas owner Bill Foley laid the initial groundwork for McPhee’s coaching profile, saying he wanted to hire an experienced head coach.

“He’s not looking for a first-termer,” said Foley. “Some may or may not be available. … I would say the coach that we name is going to be a recognizable individual.”

Among the names that have already been floated, many fit the above billing: Jack Capuano, Gerard Gallant, Ken Hitchcock and Michel Therrien, among others.

Vegas has already spoken with Gallant and reportedly made contact with Capuano as well, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Gallant was nominated for last year’s Jack Adams as the NHL’s top coach, and McPhee is familiar with Capuano, having worked as an adviser to Isles GM Garth Snow prior to taking the Golden Knights gig.

It’s also believed former Flyers head coach Craig Berube is being considered, along with current Montreal associate Kirk Muller.

 

Pre-game reading: Tonight’s Kings-Flames game could get testy

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— Up top, the Calgary Flames don’t want Matthew Tkachuk to play any differently — even though Drew Doughty called the rookie winger a “pretty dirty player” after taking the 19-year-old’s elbow to the face earlier this month.

— Tkachuk was suspended two games for that elbow. Still, there could be fireworks tonight when the Flames and the Kings meet again in Calgary. Especially after Tkachuk replied to Doughty’s remarks with the following: “I expected more from him, honestly, than to go right to the media and start complaining after a loss.” (Calgary Sun)

— TSN’s Gary Lawless thinks Sergei Bobrovsky should win the Hart Trophy over Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. Lawless writes: “No other player has been as important to his team and its results as Bobrovsky has to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Take Bobrovsky off the C-bus and it’s not necessarily in the ditch but it isn’t nipping at the Capitals for the league lead.” (TSN)

— Coyotes captain Shane Doan is understandably frustrated about the lower-body injury that’s kept him out of the lineup the past six games. At 40, this could be Doan’s last year in the NHL, so hopefully he’s able to return and play at least once more in front of all his fans. (Arizona Republic)

— Golden Knights owner Bill Foley doesn’t want each team’s protected list to be made public ahead of the expansion draft. That being said, Foley is also realistic: “I’d rather we know what each team has left unprotected and we make our picks and it’s a big surprise. I think there’s going to be a lot of leaks, though. I found one thing about the NHL that … everyone talks.” (Yahoo)

— An appreciation of the Detroit Red Wings playoff streak, which will finally come to an end this season. The last time the Wings missed was 1990. As noted by Nick Cotsonika: “No player in the NHL today was in the NHL then, not even Jaromir Jagr. Nine of the franchises in the NHL today weren’t in the NHL, 10 if you include the Vegas Golden Knights, who begin play next season.” (NHL.com)

Enjoy the games!

The Leafs’ remaining schedule is no cakewalk

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The Toronto Maple Leafs took care of business last night, sending the floundering Florida Panthers to a 3-2 defeat at Air Canada Centre.

Now comes the hard part for the young Leafs. They have seven games left to book their first playoff appearance since 2013, and their schedule is no cakewalk.

The Leafs’ next three games are all on the road, in Nashville Thursday, Detroit Saturday, and Buffalo Monday. After that, it’s a four-game home stand to close out the schedule, all against formidable opponents: Washington, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and Columbus.

With a four-point playoff cushion, the Leafs can afford to lose a few games down the stretch. But head coach Mike Babcock doesn’t want his players looking too far ahead.

“I really believe with our group if we just focus on the day we’re playing and play right, we have a real good chance to win,” Babcock said. “That’s what we talk about and that’s kind of our mantra every day is just play right, play fast and we have an opportunity to be successful. We don’t get all caught up in the race. We know the standings, it’s in the paper every day, so we know that.”

The Leafs today sent goalie Garret Sparks back to the AHL. That can only mean good news for starter Frederik Andersen, who could play Thursday after missing last night’s victory with an upper-body injury.

Backup Curtis McElhinney got the nod against the Panthers, calling it the biggest game of his career. The 33-year-old then went out and made 25 saves to earn the win.

“It was great,” said McElhinney. “Getting a couple of goals in the first period there helped out a little bit and let me settle into it. It was a nice win.”