Playoffs Tonight: Will ‘Hawks win the Cup tonight?

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Game 6: Boston Bruins host Chicago Blackhawks (8:00 p.m. ET — NBC/Live Extra)
Chicago leads series 3-2

The Chicago Blackhawks started this season with a historic 21-0-3 run and could finish it tonight by claiming the Stanley Cup. Of course, no one is saying that it will be a simple matter to beat the Boston Bruins one final time. Not in Boston. Not after everything the Bruins have achieved to this point.

“We’re an experienced group that’s been through a lot,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Not just that but we have a good group of guys that understand what’s at stake. They understand what’s happening, and they know what they need to do.”

“You’ve got to be careful,” Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said, “you’ve seen a couple years ago Boston was down 3-2, they won at home and then won Game 7 in Vancouver. We know this team is capable of coming back.

“For us I know it’s a big game, but you want to play it like it’s any other game, play the way we have all season, and try to pull one out here on the road.”

Anything is possible if Patrick Kane has another game like he had on Saturday when he beat Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask twice to lead Chicago to a 3-1 victory. Kane is the Blackhawks’ playoff scoring leader and he’s been a big contributor in the Stanley Cup Final with three goals and five points in five games.

He’s also the man who won the 2010 Stanley Cup Final with his overtime marker in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Is it possible that history might repeat itself tonight?

“I think the biggest thing is trying to help contribute anyway I can,” Kane said, “help this team get a win, especially the situation we’re in. You want to take advantage of it in the next game. We have a great opportunity. I’ll do whatever I can to help the team win, and it would be a great feeling.”

On the other side of the ice, Bruins forward Brad Marchand is one of the guys to keep an eye on. He’s not an offensive superstar like Kane, but he can be very dangerous when he’s hot and he was one of the guys that came up big for Boston late in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

He doesn’t have a point in this series, but…

“Well, if he’s going to be a streaky player I would hope that streak starts [tonight],” Julien said. “I don’t think he’s played terrible, but certainly he knows he can play better.”

Then of course, there’s the elephant in the room. The 2012 and 2013 Selke Trophy winners – Boston’s Patrice Bergeron and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews – are both questionable for Game 6. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is “optimistic” about Toews’ chances of playing while Julien would only say Bergeron is “day-to-day.”

Both of those players are so talented and help their teams in so many different ways that either loss would be hard to overcome. If one of them ends up playing and the other doesn’t, it could tip the scales of tonight’s contest.

At the same time though, these squads are so deep and so much is on the line that it’s hard to call either team the clear favorite of Game 6 regardless of what happens with Bergeron and Toews.

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.