Postseason obstacles continue to hamper the Washington Capitals, while the depleted Boston Bruins stand on the brink of seeing their Stanley Cup dream end when the 2017 NHL playoffs resume on Friday.
The upstart Toronto Maple Leafs are giving the President's Trophy winners all they can handle so far, but can the Capitals regain control of the series in a crucial Game 5? Also, the Ottawa Senators look to be moving on the second round, unless the Bruins can overcome their depth issues.
With that in mind, let us take a look at the television and live stream schedules for Friday. Continue along for a preview of both Eastern Conference matchups.
|2017 NHL Playoffs: Friday Schedule|
|Matchup||Start Time (ET)||Network||Live Stream||Series|
|Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals||7 p.m.||NBCSN||NBC Sports Live||Tied 2-2|
|Boston Bruins at Ottawa Senators||7:30 p.m.||USA Network||NBC Sports Live||3-1 Ottawa|
Washington vs. Toronto
The fact that Washington has yet to advance past the second round of the postseason with Alex Ovechkin is well documented, but this season was supposed to be different.
The Capitals boast arguably their most complete and talented team in franchise history, and a Maple Leafs squad making a surprise playoff appearance looked to be the perfect opening victim for an extended postseason run. However, Washington clawed just to keep this series knotted up, and its struggles are unexpected.
Washington entered the postseason allowing the fewest goals per game in the NHL, and Braden Holtby took home the William Jenning Trophy. Yet, the Capitals are struggling to contain Toronto's speed and quick pace of play, resulting in 14 goals allowed in four games.
Per Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post, Holtby admitted to his current struggles, and the Capitals reportedly discussed pulling him in Game 4. Still, head coach Barry Trotz expressed his full support in his star goalie, instead pointing to bad luck.
“He’s playing fine,” Trotz said Thursday. “It’s just not very predictable right now because there is stuff that is bouncing all over. It’s a pinball machine out there a little bit.”
Toronto has also conceded 14 goals in the series, but defense was not a strength considering it ranked 21st in goals allowed per game and 28th in shots against. The Maple Leafs are relying on their bevy of offensive weapons led by Nazem Kadri, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander and James van Riemsdyk up front along with Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly on defense.
Washington has failed to keep up for most of the series, as the Maple Leafs have spread out the defense and made plays with extra space. As a result, Toronto has also gained the belief that it can knock the Stanley Cup favorite, which Rielly (via TSN's Kristen Shilton) relayed earlier in the series:
Kristen Shilton @kristen_shilton
Morgan Rielly asked if #Leafs starting to believe they can win this series: "That’s been the feeling the whole time. That hasn’t changed."2017-4-18 02:39:50
Still, the Capitals have to be favored in Game 5 with the series moving back to Washington. Holtby was better at home in the first two games, stopping 82 of 88 shots in over 155 minutes of play, and the Capitals have had no problems providing goal support in this series.
The Maple Leafs have shown tremendous fight throughout this series, and they will surely continue to challenge over the next couple of games. The difference on Friday and for the rest of the matchup will be Holtby and Washington's defense. These two are proven commodities, and they are more likely to emerge than a Toronto defensive unit that continues to be exploited.
Ottawa vs. Boston
Despite being the lower seed, Boston looked to be the favorite in this series due to its advantage in star power and goaltending. Through four games, that has not been the case.
Craig Anderson is playing exceptional, as he blanked the Bruins in Game 4. This should not be a major stunner though, as Sportsnet indicated prior to the contest that Anderson owns Boston as of late:
Sportsnet Stats @SNstats
Including the regular season, #Sens Craig Anderson is 7-1-0 with a 1.82 GAA and .932 SV% in his last 8 starts vs. the Bruins.2017-4-19 21:53:19
Anderson is outplaying the more highly regarded and playoff-proven Tuukka Rask, which allowed Ottawa to win three straight one-goal games:
|Ottawa vs. Boston 2017 Goaltender Comparison|
|Player||GAA||Shots Against||Saves||Save Percentage|
Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron are not producing as well as expected, with Marchand having just one goal in the series while Bergeron has two points. These two appeared to be the game-breakers up front that Ottawa lacked, but the Bruins offense as a whole is stagnant with David Pasternak's three points leading the team.
Depth has become a deciding factor in this series. Boston is down three defensemen in Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid, which is forcing guys like 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy to play over 25 minutes a night in his first extended NHL action.
Ottawa is rolling four effective lines, led by Derick Brassard and Bobby Ryan's five points. Boston also has no answer for Erik Karlsson, who is the best player in this series.
Rask could break out and turn in a gem, but the Senators at home are the favorite to take Game 5. Their tight defensive game and timely scoring has the Bruins frustrated and out of wack. Unless Boston can find some offense to take pressure off of Bergeron and Marchand, expect Ottawa to advance on Friday.
Statistics are courtesy of NHL.com unless otherwise noted.