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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Bruins and Stars draw even, Avalanche take 3-1 lead

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Bruins and Stars draw even, Avalanche take 3-1 lead

Tuesday's playoff action included two sweeps, an overtime winner and a shutout, while Wednesday's three games provided two teams drawing even and one team pushing the other towards the brink of elimination.

Here's everything you need to know about Wednesday's games from around the league.

Bruins draw even with Leafs in 6-4 win

The Toronto Maple Leafs entered the night with a 2-1 series lead and a win on home ice would have pushed the Boston Bruins to the brink of elimination.

But the Bruins started the game strong, taking a 2-1 lead into the first intermission thanks to Charlie McAvoy and Brad Marchand.

The Leafs battled back with two goals from Auston Matthews. It's Matthews' first multi-goal game of the playoffs in his career.

The Bruins evened the series with a win thanks to Zdeno Chara's bomb from the point in the third period.

Chara became the oldest blueliner in NHL history to score a game-winning goal at 42.

Stars pummel Predators with 5-1 victory

The Dallas Stars took it to the Nashville Predators early, scoring two consecutive power play goals within the first five minutes of the first period courtesy of Roope Hintz and Alexander Radulov.

The Stars ended the first period up 4-0 and never looked back. Roope Hintz added a second tally to make it 5-0 by the end of the second period, and it's his first career multi-goal game of the playoffs.

Nashville regains home ice on Saturday and will look to pull ahead after dropping their last two games. Neither team has won an away game yet in this series.

Avalanche pull off 3-2 overtime win

Mikko Rantanen was the difference maker as the Colorado Avalanche took a 3-1 series lead over the Calgary Flames.

The Flames held a two goal lead with 10 minutes remaining in the third period due to Elias Lindholm and Derek Ryan's goals.

The comeback was on for the Avalanche, and Rantanen tied the game at two with just under three minutes remaining.

Former Capitals backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer provided a key save on the penalty kill to keep the Avalanche in it in overtime.

Rantanen sealed the win with a one-timer from the left circle. If the Avs go on to win the series, it will be their first playoff series win since the 2007-08 season.


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The 2 biggest questions the Caps still need answered after 10 games

The 2 biggest questions the Caps still need answered after 10 games

The Capitals are 10 games into the 2019-20 season. For the most part, things have gone well. The team is 6-2-2 and sits atop the Metropolitan Division. John Carlson leads the entire NHL with 18 points which puts him in some pretty elite company. Ilya Samsonov looks as good as advertised while Braden Holtby looks like his old self after a brief reset. Alex Ovechkin has six goals already and T.J. Oshie leads the team with seven. Plus, both special teams units look improved.

That’s a pretty solid start.

But there remain two important questions that still need answers.

Who should play on the right on the second defensive pair?

Michal Kempny finally returned after missing the first eight games of the season. He started the last two on the third pair, but is working his way back up to the top pairing. Once he gets there, the defense will finally be at full strength.

That gives Washington a pretty solid top three of Kempny and Carlson, plus Dmitry Orlov. But who should play on the right with Orlov?

Jensen had the first crack at it to start the season, but after some up-and-down play, Radko Gudas was bumped up for a few games. Since Kempny returned, Gudas moved back down to third to play with him and Jensen moved back with Orlov.

So far Gudas has been as good as advertised, but playing well on the third pair does not necessarily mean he should be on the second.

Jensen was one of Detroit’s top defensemen when he was acquired by the Caps. The team is still waiting for that player to emerge. It has been a tough transition for him to Washington's system and, while he has shown flashes of strong play, he remains largely inconsistent. His Corsi-For percentage at 5-on-5 is the second-worst on the team at 46.82-percent. He is one of only three Caps below 50-percent with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tyler Lewington being the other two.

The issue for the Caps may be that they have two high-quality third pair right defensemen in Jensen and Gudas and only one top-four right defenseman in Carlson which leaves a hole on that second pair.

When it comes to the defense, we should reserve all judgment until Kempny is back to playing on the top-pair full-time so we can see this defense at full strength. Until then, however, the second pair remains a question mark.

Can the Caps get enough production from the third line?

There wasn’t much offense to speak of from the Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller, Richard Panik trio and it didn’t take Todd Reirden long to split them up. Hagelin is the Swiss Army knife of the Caps’ offense, but his offensive production is limited. Panik meanwhile has had a tough start to his Caps’ tenure with zero points and is on long-term injured reserve.

As always, the top six for this team remains lethal and the additions of Brendan Leipsic and Garnet Hathaway to the fourth line have been home runs. The third line is the only one that remains a question and it may need a boost from a player like Jakub Vrana, who has been playing there the last few games with Eller and Hathaway, to help spark some production. Ultimately, however, you would like to see Vrana back in the top six and Hathaway back on the fourth. Hagelin, Eller and Panik are the best fit for the third, but if they can’t produce together it may mean weakening the top six or the fourth line by moving players around to find a combination that produces on that third line.


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John Carlson's seven assists nabs him the NHL's second star of the week

John Carlson's seven assists nabs him the NHL's second star of the week

John Carlson has opened this season with monster numbers, putting up three goals and 15 assists in 10 games. He currently leads the league in points with 18. 

The NHL has noticed and named Carlson their second star of the week. Boston's David Pastrnak got the first star, while Buffalo's Carter Hutton was named the third star.

In four games last week, Carlson notched one goal and seven assists for eight points. He currently leads the league in assists with 15.

Carlson is also in historic company. The only other two defensemen to score as many or more points than Carlson in the first 10 games of a season are Bobby Orr (2‑16—18 in 1969-70 and 5-13—18 in 1973-74, w/ Boston) and Paul Coffey (3-17—20 in 1988-89, w/ Pittsburgh).