As the Stanley Cup Playoffs inch along, Saturday saw three series reach 3-2.
But before we get to the day’s recaps, the Minnesota Wild stole some headlines with their hiring of Bruce Boudreau as head coach.
Boudreau was let go eight days ago by the Ducks, so he didn’t spend too long unemployed. When he was fired by the Capitals, he spent about 72 hours in that situation. The point is, Boudreau, despite his playoff struggles, is a very good coach. He transformed both organizations into playoff contenders, and even though the Wild have advanced to the playoffs for four years in a row, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them become a more legitimate force very soon. Great news for their offense.
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Now, onto the recaps …
BLUES 4, STARS 1 (Blues lead 3-2)
—The Blues are one win away from the Western Conference final, and they can wrap up the series at home Monday.
— The big difference in this series continues to be goaltending, as expected. The Stars have a revolving door of subpar netminders. In this one, Kari Lehtonen made 18 saves, good (or bad) for a .857 SV%. With their offensive firepower, even average goaltending would be such a boost.
— Brian Elliott set aside 27 shots. One of his best seasons continues, as he has posted a 2.20 GAA and .932 SV% in 12 games in the playoffs. He faced 12 shots (to three) in the third and stopped them all and has become very reliable for St. Louis.
— Robby Fabbri (goal, assist), a rookie, has enjoyed quite the postseason. And to think he was involved in some trade rumors during the season. It never seemed like the Blues would move him, though. He has two goals and 10 points in 12 playoff games.
— Paul Stastny (goal, assist) is playing some of his best hockey of the season. His goal came with the net empty, but I won’t knock him for that. He has been a top-line center lately, with four points and two goals over his past three games.
— Troy Brouwer (goal) has done his part to increase his value leading into the offseason. But paying him on a lengthy deal wouldn’t be smart. He doesn’t really deserve more than the $3.67 cap hit he earned on his latest deal. Brouwer has four goals and seven points in the playoffs; he had 18 and 39 in the regular season.
— Dmitrij Jaskin notched his first playoff goal, in his first playoff game. The future is bright for the 23-year-old.
CAPITALS 3, PENGUINS 1 (Penguins lead 3-2)
— The Capitals needed their best players to perform their best, and that’s exactly what they got in this game in DC.
— Alex Ovechkin (goal, assist) stepped up, scoring on the power play. He had six of the Capitals’ 19 shots on goal. The captain has five goals and 10 points in the playoffs, with three goals on the man advantage.
— T.J. Oshie (goal, assist) also continued his impressive playoffs. His goal also came on the power play. Even though he is not a big guy at 5-11, 189 pounds, Oshie plays a gritty game and he’s not afraid to go into the dirty areas to make plays. Add his skill and he makes for a great playoff, when checking is tight, player. Oshie has five goals and nine points in 11 games.
— Justin Williams (goal) has had a disappointing playoffs. But he’s come alive lately, with both of his goals and three of his five points in the past three games. The Capitals need him to stay hot because they are getting such little production from their bottom-six lines.
— Chris Kunitz (goal) scored his first of the playoffs via assists from Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby. he has one goal on 16 shots in the playoffs, which isn’t off his career rate of 7.7% in the playoffs. What is off, though is his other production, with three points in 10 playoff games. It seems like age is catching up to him.
— Braden Holtby (30 saves) looked like a Vezina frontrunner in this game. Though, it’s worth noting, the Capitals actually had 22 scoring chances, compared to 19 for the Penguins … despite shots being 31-19 Pittsburgh. Holtby has a 1.53 GAA and .947 SV% in the playoffs.
— Matt Murray blocked 16 shots, allowing two goals on the power play. The Penguins would be best served by exercising patience with him and not turning to Marc-Andre Fleury, who hasn’t played since March 31, in Game 6. Murray has been solid: 1.96 GAA and .937 SV%. Plus, you can’t underestimate being game-ready. Fleury is not.
— Game 6 is Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.
SHARKS 5, PREDATORS 1 (Sharks lead 3-2)
— The Sharks are a game away from advancing to the conference final for the first time since 2011.
— They can thank the sizzling performances of Joe Pavelski (two goals) and Logan Couture (goal) for getting them close. Pavelski had six shots on goal and seven hits. Even though he has posted three seasons in a row with at least 37 goals, it feels like he’s still underrated. Pavelski has eight goals and 12 points in the playoffs.
— When Couture returned to the lineup this season after dealing with an injury, it immediately lengthened their lineup. He is a skilled offensive player, and he is playing his best hockey now. The 27-year-old has five goals and 13 points.
— Patrick Marleau (goal, assist) is showing that he still has something left in the tank. He has two of his three goals over his past three games. He has six points in the playoffs. Moving him down to the third line has been an astute move by Peter DeBoer.
— Melker Karlsson netted a goal via the empty net. Not as impressive, but it counts as his first playoff goal nonetheless.
— Martin Jones (24 saves) needs to perform more consistently like this. The Sharks have been winning on the strength of their offense. Jones has a 2.32 GAA and .913 SV%. He had allowed eight goals on 70 shots in the two games prior to this one. If Jones steps it up, watch out.
— Mike Fisher (goal) notched the only marker for the Predators. He leads the team with five goals, and he has seven points. He has a point in five games in a row. A perfect example that playoff performance can help shape a career … he had only 13 goals in 70 games.
— Pekka Rinne (23 saves) was lousy. He had allowed four goals on 74 shots in two games entering this one. Rinne sports a 2.22 GAA and .922 SV% in the playoffs. The Preds will look to keep their season alive at home Monday. Rinne posted a .912 SV% there this season.
— Filip Forsberg (minus-two, three shots) has faced poor puck luck in the playoffs. He has two goals on 31 shots and a 6.5% scoring rate in the playoffs. He scored at a 13.4% clip in the regular season. Monday would be a good time for some pucks to find the twine.