Remember in game five of the Toronto-Boston series when James Reimer made that unbelievable toe-save on Patrice Bergeron? Well that very well could be the turning point in this series. The score was 0-0 and Bergeron had a yawning cage, but somehow Reimer spread across and got a toe on a puck that was headed right for the back of the net. If he doesn’t make that save, the series is done.
But it’s not, and the Leafs had a very very strong game six at home, with a 2-1 win thanks to a pair of goals in the second. Phil Kessel had the eventual winner, and just like in game five, the Bruins came hard in the last few minutes of regulation, falling just short of tying it and sending the game to overtime.
In Manhattan, King Hank stole the show last night in what was probably Ovechkin’s best game of the series. Lundqvist stopped 27 shots for the shutout, as the series had its second 1-0 game. His 27 saves included this one on Ovechkin, who led his Capitals team in shots, laid the body and even blocked a few.
Right here is a prime example of what he did last night, and why he’s so dangerous.
But with two game sevens tonight, here are the three big factors in each series.
Toronto and Boston
1.) The ice is tilted in the Leafs favour.
When the Leafs went down 3-1 on a bad Phaneuf pinch in overtime, nobody was expecting them to come out of this series alive. But with some stellar goaltending and timely goals, they’re right back in this thing.
The Leafs had a knack for getting wildly outshot and somehow mucking up a victory in the regular season, but they found out against Boston that this tactic wasn’t gonna work. So after giving up pretty much 40 shots each game for the first five, they surrendered only 30 in game six. Reimer was steady, but they didn’t need him to be a brick wall, because they carried the tempo for most of the game.
2.) The Bruins have done this before.
Two years ago, the Bruins stunned the Canucks in seven games. They fell back 2-0 and stormed back to win the series in seven, at Rogers Arena. And this team is pretty much identical. Maybe you swap Thomas for Rask or Kaberle for Redden, but the core of this team is all there.
They know what it takes, and they’re probably not very happy that the Leafs have made this series so tough on them. Especially since they’ve taken two of three at home.
3.) Phil has answered the media.
He’s scored three goals against his former team, and has silenced the critics that say he wouldn’t be able to perform in a playoff series against the Bruins. He scored the eventual game winner last night, and has been reliable in his own end all series long.
Kessel has four points in this series, whereas Tyler Seguin has none and Dougie Hamilton has been a healthy scratch for a few games. The “thank you Kessel” chants have gone from this:
Washington and New York
1.) The battle of the goalies.
Both Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist have been sensational through the first six games of this series. This is weird considering the Rangers and Capitals were the two hottest teams down the stretch and led the league in goals since the trade deadline.
The numbers of these two goalies are basically identical. Holtby boasts a .938 save percentage whereas Hank boasts a .937, not to mention they’ve given up 12 and 11 goals respectively.
Ovechkin seems to have come out of hiding after he had a strong game last night, so Hank is gonna have to be fire. And you’ve gotta think that Rick Nash will be a threat every chance he’s got the puck. Holtby and Lundqvist are both up for the challenge.
2.) Home ice advantage.
Every single game in this series has been won at home ice. So if the trend continues, Ovi and the Caps will be facing whoever prevails tonight in the Boston and Toronto series.
The Caps seem to like it at the Verizon Centre, going 15-8-1 in the regular season, and are 3-0 so far this post season.
I mean, who wouldn’t like skating out into a sea of red?
3.) Special teams.
The Rangers went 0-5 on the power-play last night, but the Caps? Oh, they didn’t have a single man advantage. They had two power-plays in game five, going 1-2, and they’re gonna need to draw some penalties tonight if they want to advance.
The biggest piece to the Capitals offence is the power-play and if they can get a few man advantages they can put Mike Green to work.
They did it in game two, when they won it 1-0 in overtime, and tonight is probably going to boil down to special teams. It’s gonna be a close matchup, just like every other game in this series, and one bad penalty could be lethal.
Predictions for tonight: Game seven in Boston is gonna be a hard-hitting, high-tempo game that comes down to one goal. The Bruins are gonna come out hard, but Reimer will weather the storm, giving the Leafs a boost for the second and third. Another 2-1 game in favour of the Leafs.
Game seven at the Verizon Centre will be a lot like the rest of this series. Low scoring with stellar goaltending in both ends. Ovechkin will break out of his cocoon and score the game winner. We’ll see a final score of 3-2 in overtime, and a Capitals-Leafs Conference Semi Finals.