The Boston Bruins are looking to knot their series with the Montreal Canadiens, while the Los Angeles Kings will attempt to put a choke hold on the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.
The Canadiens hold a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series that resumes with Game 4 in Montreal. The Bruins nearly rallied to tie the Canadiens in the third period for the third straight game, but the Canadiens survived to win Game 3 and get halfway toward eliminating the Presidents' Trophy winners.
Out West, the Kings won both games in Anaheim and are two wins away from their third straight trip to the conference final. Since falling behind 3-0 in their first-round series with the San Jose Sharks, the Kings have won six straight games.
Here are three storylines and a prediction for both games on the schedule Thursday.
Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens
Can the Bruins score first? Heck, can they find a way to score second? The Bruins have fallen behind 2-0 in each of the first three games of this series, although they rallied to tie each of the first two games in the third period. That wasn't the case in Game 3, as the Canadiens held strong to take the lead in the series. Boston has controlled play in all three games; no question about it, but forcing the Canadiens to play catch-up would behoove them.
Can P.K. Subban be stopped? The reigning Norris Trophy winner has been a force of nature in this series. He has three goals—two winners—and six points in three games. He's been physical as well, although Thomas Vanek was a casualty of a Subban hit in Game 3.
As B/R's Steve Macfarlane wrote, "In addition to the offense, he’s playing physical, defensively responsible, emotional and maybe most importantly, mature hockey at the age of 24."
If Subban continues to play at this level and show the discipline he has in the first three games, the Canadiens have a great shot at pulling off the upset.
Can Tuukka Rask be better? It's not as though Rask was horrible in Game 3—he had no chance on Tomas Plekanec's goal, and the Bruins allowed a pair of breakaways by Subban and Dale Weise—but the best goaltender in the league needs to make that occasional big save when called upon. Rask has yet to be at his best in this series, and he really needs to show up for Game 4.
Prediction: Boston 3, Montreal 2, OT
Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings
Is Jonathan Quick superhuman again? The Kings goaltender was extremely leaky in the first three games of the San Jose Sharks series, but has been a fortress in his past six games. He is 6-0 with a .967 save percentage since losing Game 3 in the first round and made 36 saves to steal Game 2 of this series with the Ducks.
"Quick is a world-class goalie," said Anaheim's Corey Perry, according to FoxSports.com. "Those types of goalies, they see a puck and they're going to stop it. You've got to have those second opportunities, you've got to be able to go to the net and you've got to be willing to do that."
If Quick finds the form that guided the Kings to the Cup in 2012 and conference final in 2013, the Ducks are doomed.
How about a goal from Corey Perry? He has been held off the scoresheet in two games this series after putting up two goals and five assists in six games during the first round against the Dallas Stars. He has seven shots so far, but he hasn't been able to penetrate Quick. The Ducks' big stars drive the team's engine, and if Perry can't score, that presents a major problem.
Jonas Hiller or Frederik Andersen? Since Hiller took over for Andersen in the first round, he has stopped 59 of 64 shots (.922), although he wasn't sharp in Game 2. Andersen won the first three games of the Stars series before he was pulled midway through Game 6. The rookie has a 3.40/.892 split this postseason, so he's not necessarily the answer in Game 3 against the Kings.
Prediction: Los Angeles 4, Anaheim 2