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Predicting Winners in Sunday's NHL Playoff Action

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2013

Predicting Winners in Sunday's NHL Playoff Action

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    Hockey fans will be treated to a trifecta of potentially decisive NHL playoff games on Sunday.

    The Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings will meet in Game 7 in a series that has already seen four overtime games. The Red Wings have won three of those, the latest coming in Game 6 in Detroit to set up a winner-take-all contest in Anaheim.

    Elsewhere, the New York Rangers host the Washington Capitals in Game 6. The home team has won each game in the series.

    That has not been the case in the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins won the opener in Boston, but the road team has won each game since. The Bruins will take a 3-2 lead into the Game 6 battle at the Air Canada Center.

    The reality is that three series could end on Sunday, and that's more drama than any TV producer could come up with on his best day.

Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs, Game 6

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    How We Got Here

    The Bruins had the Maple Leafs on the brink of elimination after they scored an overtime win in Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead. Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle said that David Krejci's finishing goal in the extra session felt like a "dagger" (via AP, h/t Yahoo!).

    However, the Maple Leafs did not succumb to the Bruins in Game 5 in Boston. Toronto was the better team for the first 30 minutes and eventually took a 2-0 lead early in the third period.

    That's when the Bruins played with desperation, but they were only able to cut the lead to 2-1. Despite throwing wave after wave of pressure at goalie James Reimer and the Toronto defense, the Bruins could not get the equalizer.

     

    How Game 6 Plays Out

    The Maple Leafs have gotten the Bruins' full attention. This time, Boston will come out with a more focused effort and will not try to just put the Maple Leafs away late in the game.

    Look for the Boston line of Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand to finally wake up and score at least two goals, while Krejci's line will add one more.

    That should be enough for goalie Tuukka Rask, who has mostly played sensational hockey. Reimer has played above expectations, but he won't be able to survive one more game under attack from Boston's heavy offense.

    Don't expect the Leafs to get more than one goal in this one. The Bruins will end the series.

Detroit Red Wings at Anaheim Ducks, Game 7

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    How We Got Here

    The Red Wings refuse to die. Even though they have failed to beat the Ducks in regulation in any game in this series, they have forced a decisive seventh game.

    Their third overtime win in the series took place Friday night when Henrik Zetterberg scored a goal early in the extra session. Detroit had a 3-1 lead late in the third period, but Anaheim showed its explosiveness by scoring two goals 49 seconds apart in the final four minutes.

     

    How Game 7 Plays Out

    The Ducks have the stronger and more explosive team. They appear to have a significant edge with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan as well as plenty of size and strength.

    They have also gotten solid goaltending from Jonas Hiller. However, the Red Wings have the best coach in the business in Mike Babcock. When it comes to teaching fundamental play, implementing game strategy and motivating players, he has a fairly sizable edge on Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau.

    There may be some doubt in the Anaheim camp as the opening faceoff nears. The longer the game stays close, the better it should be for Detroit.

    Don't be shocked if there's another overtime game and the Red Wings pull off the shocker.

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