Three of the four NHL playoff contests on Friday are elimination games. The Toronto Maple Leafs, St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings will all be fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Blues and the Leafs are in an especially tough situation. They will have to find a way to win on the road. Here is a look at the crucial games that could end the second season for three teams.
The Bruins Will Close out the Leafs
The main reason the Leafs are down 3-1 to the Boston Bruins is because they have been out-shot in the series 176-135. The Bruins have been the more physical and aggressive team.
James Reimer could be playing better, but his team isn't doing him any favors. He's seeing too many shots on a nightly basis and many of them have put him in a no-win situation.
I'm not only referring to Dion Phaneuf, whose defensive error helped set up the game-winning goal in Game 5. Afterward, the television cameras caught a non-verbal exchange between Reimer's wife April, and Phaneuf's girlfriend, actress Elisha Cuthbert.
This was misinterpreted by fans and media alike, who thought Cuthbert was annoyed with Reimer's play. Thankfully, the two women cleared things up on Twitter.
Unfortunately, the Leafs won't be able to use social media to alleviate their issues. They are being outplayed in almost every aspect.
There is almost no way this team is going to win in Boston at this point.
The Wings Will Force a Game 7
This back-and-forth affair has had the look of a series destined for seven games from the beginning. No team has strung consecutive wins through the first five games. The Ducks had to eek out a 3-2 win in the third overtime game of the series to get in position to close the Wings out.
How do you feel about Jimmy Howard?
The Wings need big games from two players. Goalie Jimmy Howard must step up in net. He has been inconsistent throughout the series. A few great saves in Game 5 helped to extend the game to overtime, but better play throughout the game could have prevented the extra session.
His save percentage has fluctuated between 87 and 93 percent in the first five games. If the Wings are going to win, they need Howard to play great—not just good.
Pavel Datsyuk needs to be more aggressive offensively. In the Wings two wins, he has averaged four shots on goal. In the losses, he's managed just 2.3.
His attacks can create opportunities for his teammates, even when he's not finding the back of the net himself.
The Kings Will Advance in Another Defensive Struggle
The goaltending on both sides has been excellent in this series. The offenses are making it easier on the guys in net, though.
Limiting shots with physical play has kept both Jonathan Quick and Brian Elliott from needing to stand on their head to win. The team that emerges from this series has a great shot at reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.
The key to Game 6 will be taking care of the puck. In all but two games, the team with the most takeaways has won.
The only two exceptions came in Game 1 and 5. The takeaway margin in those games was one and zero, respectively.
At home, the defending champions will be sharper with the puck. Quick will continue to shine, but limiting the Blues' takeaways will lead to more scoring opportunities.
The Kings will gut out a tough win to eliminate the Blues.
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