Almost any playoff game can change the scope of a series considering the limited amount of contests involved, but Game 5’s are frequently pivotal. That should definitely be the case for tonight’s two games, as both series will end up 3-2 by the end of the evening. Let’s take a look at them now, with all start times being Eastern Standard Time (ET).
Buffalo @ Philadelphia – 7:30 p.m. (Versus); Series tied 2-2.
This is starting to seem like a feast or famine series for Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. In the team’s two wins, he looked like an absolute star by getting shutouts. Yet in the two losses, he’s been able to empathize with Roberto Luongo’s struggles by allowing eight goals. It’ll be interesting to see if this ends up being a tight or wide open game tonight.
One thing that seems certain is that the intensity will ratchet up. The two sides keep falling into wars of words, with the most recent exchange taking place between Sabres coach Lindy Ruff and Flyers captain Mike Richards. If you haven’t been able to see much of this series yet, you should absolutely take the chance to watch tonight’s game.
Nashville @ Anaheim – 10 p.m. (Versus); Series tied at 2-2
With Bobby Ryan’s two-game absence in mind, the Ducks probably feel pretty good about returning to Anaheim with their series tie intact. This is very much a seesaw series so far, with the Predators looking great in Games 1 and 3 and the Ducks winning impressively in Game 2 and 4.
Much like that Flyers-Sabres series, the angst level keeps rising as well. From Ryan’s suspension to Ducks GM Bob Murray’s diving complaints to the Jarkko Ruutu suspension, these teams are clearly getting to know each other. Expect some fireworks in what could be a decisive rubber match.
Most people (myself included) billed the Nashville Predators-Anaheim Ducks series as a clash between Barry Trotz’s defensive system and the Ducks’ star forwards. The teams didn’t really follow that script at first as the Predators dominated almost every facet of Game 1, but Anaheim’s big guns made the difference in Game 2.
Anaheim 5, Nashville 3; Series tied at 1-1.
The Predators really shot themselves in the foot in the first period, giving the Ducks a 5-on-3 after Martin Erat and Shane O’Brien were whistled for successive slashing penalties. Anaheim’s skill players made them pay, as Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne scored in that time to give the Ducks a 2-0 lead.
There was a feeling that the game might have gotten out of hand thanks to that 40 second span early in the game, but Shea Weber showed his value with a power-play goal of his own to make it 2-1. The Ducks’ premier power forwards came through again after that, though, as Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf gave Anaheim a 4-1 lead going into the second intermission.
Patric Hornqvist and Joel Ward brought the lead down to 4-3 in the third period, but Ryan scored an empty-netter with a minute left to help the Ducks avoid losing the two opening games at home.
Ray Emery earned the win in his first playoff start in almost four years while Pekka Rinne allowed four goals on 27 shots.
Both teams should have mixed feelings after this game. The Ducks must feel relieved that they won, but also must regret that they dropped Game 1 since it was at home. Winning the first game gives the Predators “home ice advantage” in the series, but they must also worry that Anaheim’s elites regained the scary swagger that promoted a startling run to the West’s fourth seed.
This series doesn’t involve two marquee teams, but it’s an interesting battle of strengths that is tough to gauge. We’ll keep you up to date as it goes along.