Author: James O'Brien

Tom Wilson, Rick Nash

WATCH LIVE: Tonight’s Stanley Cup Playoff action

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Could we see a Game 7 in round two of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs?

The New York Rangers face just that opportunity as they march into the Verizon Center to face the Washington Capitals down 3-2 in their series. Tonight’s two games of NBCSN action begin with this Game 6, which you can watch on TV and also stream via NBC Sports Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

The Calgary Flames are one game behind the Rangers in their own strides to push the Anaheim Ducks to the distance. The Ducks currently hold a 3-1 series advantage and get a great opportunity to finish the Flames off with Game 5 in Anaheim. Again, this one’s also on NBCSN and can be streamed via NBC Sports Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Even Vanek admits he let the Wild down

Minnesota Wild v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Two
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The Minnesota Wild signed Thomas Vanek to a lucrative deal with this in mind: they finally wanted to get over the hump against the Chicago Blackhawks. Vanek’s detractors would counter that he was the last guy who would accomplish such a task.

Unfortunately for the Wild, Vanek-haters seem to be correct, at least for one season. At least if you look at the results.

Even Vanek is disappointed with his play, as the Pioneer Press’ Chad Graff reports.

“I knew I only needed one to get going and I didn’t get it. I let them down,” Vanek said. “Their scorers scored when they needed to with timely goals and I didn’t.”

The 31-year-old didn’t just fail to score timely goals. He didn’t find the net in garbage time or merely to give Minnesota a little “insurance” either. In 10 playoff games, Vanek failed to score a single goal, settling for four assists.

Now, even the best snipers – a group Vanek belongs to, or at least once did – can hit a wall during the precious few games that make up a postseason. The 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs provide plenty of examples, from Steven Stamkos to Rick Nash. Marian Hossa’s struggles to get a bounce even flew under the radar, as his only goal of this playoff run so far came on an empty-netter in Game 4.

The key difference between Vanek and those other forwards is that, frankly, it’s tougher to gauge the effort from Vanek.

It’s not just a matter of puck luck failing him. Vanek only generated 19 shots on goal in 10 playoff games, and as flimsy as plus/minus can be, seeing him go pointless with a -4 mark in the last three contests isn’t promising. Unlike Hossa, Vanek doesn’t exactly draw rave reviews for his defensive play either, so it’s easy to understand the negativity surrounding the situation. NHL snipers don’t tend to age like fine wine, after all.

The key will be for him to play his game, and a big part of that is unleashing his shot with aplomb. Merely looking at his shot totals in 2013-14 (248 in 78 games with three different teams) versus this past season (just 171 in 80 contests with Minnesota), it’s reasonable to wonder if this was just an off year. Perhaps his off-the-ice issues were simply too much to overcome?

Whether it comes from within or from a coach saying the right words (Mike Yeo or perhaps someone else?), Vanek needs to turn things around.

At least he realizes as much, though.

Petry: ‘Hope is definitely alive’ for Habs

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Four
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The Montreal Canadiens didn’t just avoid a sweep against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 last night; they crushed the Bolts.

Really, it’s kind of difficult to begrudge them their swagger on Friday morning, either.

Montreal has taken the shot advantage in three straight games, generating a whopping 100-67 edge over Tampa Bay in the past three contests. Bounces don’t always go your way, and until last night, Ben Bishop and a handful of Lightning forwards made the difference earlier in this series.

The Habs defiantly said “not yet” on Thursday, and it’s clear that they aren’t intimidated by this challenge. Either that, or they’re putting on a convincingly brave face.

“Momentum in hockey can change quick,” Michel Therrien noted to the Canadian Press’ Stephen Whyno.

For P.K. Subban, it’s simply not time to golf.

Therrien noted that he believes the Canadiens are a tough team to play against, and that the Lightning should expect no less in Game 5 on Saturday. One wouldn’t put it past Montreal to make things a lot more interesting, especially if they aren’t too concerned about this current deficit.

Related

Stamkos: “We got what was coming.”

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoff TV schedule for tonight

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers - Game Two
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A quick look at which games will be on which channels in tonight’s Stanley Cup playoff action …

Capitals at Rangers, 7:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Could the 2015 Presidents’ Trophy winners end up seeing their season end tonight? The New York Rangers hope to ward off elimination against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

On the bright side for Rangers fans, they’ve fought back from a 3-1 series deficit with Alain Vigneault behind the bench before. The makeup of the team is already a bit different in this postseason, yet considering how close this series has been despite the 3-1 Caps’ advantage, the Rangers seem likely to put up a significant fight.

Ducks at Flames, 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

The already fairly well-rested Ducks (they did sweep the Jets, after all) got an extra breather between Games 3 and tonight’s Game 4, which presented enough time to see the Blackhawks advance to the conference finals. It’s up to Anaheim to justify its West top seed status by trying to close out the Flames this weekend.

That may not be easy, as the spunky underdogs get another game in Calgary with a possible series tie dangling as a golden opportunity. While Anaheim should be pretty close to 100 percent, the Flames probably needed this gap between games quite a bit more. They have the opportunity to make a long series out of this one with a win tonight.

PHT Morning Skate: Jimmy Fallon tabs Alex Ovechkin as a Bond villain

ovechkinfallon
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Jacob Markstrom was one of the most notable players involved in the sixth-longest game in AHL history. (Puck Daddy)

Ten amazing rookie playoff performances from the past 10 years, or “Cam Ward gets to be on a flattering list.” (The Hockey News)

Get to know high-end 2016 NHL Draft prospect Auston Matthews. (Sportsnet)

P.K. Subban isn’t ready to golf just yet.

“The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” took a lengthy look at the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs with a superlatives segment, which amounts to a lot of NHL player mugshot jokes. We shall now refer to Brian Boyle as “The Disney Prince.”

The Alex Ovechkin – Bond villain comparison seems oddly familiar, though, doesn’t it?

Finally, it’s Friday. Get excited.