The most prominent series in the NHL playoffs are often decided by the most subtle of factors.
On the colossal stage of the conference semifinals, eight teams are currently battling it out for just four spots in the next round.
The handful of squads that get there will likely do so by the smallest of margins—one timely penalty kill, one spectacular save or one strategic line change that, in the end, made the biggest of differences.
As each Stanley Cup quarterfinals series reaches the stretch run, one crucial unit vs. unit or player vs. player matchup is beginning to emerge as a deciding factor. For some, a special teams advantage is paving the way to a string of victories; for others, one singular star—outperforming his counterpart on the opposing end—is leading the rest of his team onward.
An examination of each series' most important matchup falls on the coming slides.