NHL Playoffs Day 6

It’s Day 6 of the NHL Playoffs. So, what’s in store on a fantastic 75 degree Monday in New York? There are three games on tap.

The first one features the top seeded Capitals visiting the Flyers for Game 3. In what’s sure to be an emotionally charged atmosphere, the Flyers organization will honor the memory of Ed Snider prior to face off. He was responsible for bringing hockey to Philadelphia. Snider was one of the most hands on owners in the NHL. Always a good quote, he told you what he thought. A passionate man who cared about his team and the fans, Snider will be remembered for his contributions to hockey.

With it being a must win situation, look for the Flyers to come out fired up. They lost the first two games to the heavily favored Caps by a combined score of 6-1. After being shut out by Braden Holtby (19 saves) in Game 1, they lost 4-1 in Game 2. A game which saw Flyers’ starter Steve Mason allow an awful goal from 101 feet out on a Jason Chimera dump in. He just lost concentration. He took full responsibility. Obviously, that goal didn’t help. But when Jakub Voracek finally solved Holtby cutting it to 2-1, a bad penalty resulted in a power play goal for Alexander Ovechkin, restoring a two-goal lead for the Caps.

The Flyers must deliver their best performance to get back in the series. At home, they can feed off the energy of the crowd. One thing is certain. It’s time for their best players to step up. Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and the Ghost, Shayne Gostisbehere must have an impact. If he starts again, Mason must rebound. The game can be seen on NBCSN at 7 PM.

The second match-up doesn’t start until 8:30 PM. The shorthanded Wild host the top seeded Stars out West. So far, Dallas is in control leading the series 2-0. After posting a fairly routing 4-0 shutout in Game 1 behind 22 saves from starter Kari Lehtonen along with a highlight reel goal from Jason Spezza, the Stars hung on to edge the Wild 2-1 in Game 2. The difference was captain Jamie Benn’s breakaway goal on Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk. He got behind the defense and went backhand deke thru the five-hole for the game-winner.

Marco Scandella broke through on Lehtonen with a power play goal that cut the deficit to one with over seven minutes left in regulation. But the Wild were unable to force overtime despite controlling play and getting some good chances. Once again, Lehtonen was the difference making 25 saves. Thus far, he’s stopped 47 of 48 shots in the two Stars wins. Minnesota must do a better job getting to him.

It’ll continue to be tough without Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek. Aside from needing offense from Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville, Jason Zucker and Ryan Suter, they could also use some luck. They had none on Antoine Roussel’s controversial goal in Game 2 that overturned the call of no goal on the ice. An odd sequence in which he fired a puck off Dubnyk and in with the moorings slightly off. Dubnyk was none too pleased. Can the Wild ratchet it up in front of one of the loudest buildings at Xcel Energy Center? The game can be seen on CNBC.

The final game of the night isn’t until 10 PM. It’s the Kings and Sharks from HP Pavilion in San Jose. This has been another excellent series between bitter California rivals. Two years removed from blowing a 3-0 first round lead to the eventual 2014 Stanley Cup champs, the Sharks are once again in good position after taking the first two games at Staples Center. In each one-goal win, they had the better defense and goaltending. Their star players are also outplaying the Kings’ best.

In particular, Joe Pavelski who tallied his third goal of the series to put the Kings behind early in Game 2. Pavelski is one of the NHL’s best finishers. He flies under the radar in San Jose due to playoff disappointments. A year after they missed the postseason, the Sharks changed coaches bringing in Pete DeBoer. He’s done a good job. They also made some good moves last summer adding Paul Martin to the back end and character forward Joel Ward up front. Along with the genius trade for former Kings’ backup Martin Jones with the Bruins, the Sharks are a better team. They’re better equipped to go head to head with the Kings, whose big stars Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty have been eerily quiet.

If they are to get back in the series, Kopitar and Doughty must be better. They’ll also need a money performance from Jonathan Quick. He hasn’t been bad by any stretch but Jones has outplayed him. In particular in Game 2 when he made 26 saves with many clutch stops late when the Kings pressed for the equalizer. Vincent Lecavalier scored the only goal on the power play. The difference was a undisciplined charging penalty from Milan Lucic that gave San Jose a full five-on-three that Logan Couture cashed for the game-winner in the second.

Los Angeles was without key defenseman Alec Martinez in Game 2. He missed a few games to end the regular season but played part of Game 1 before getting injured. Without the 2014 playoff hero, it’s forced Darryl Sutter to play Doughty nearly 30 minutes and lean hard on partner Jake Muzzin. LA’s remaining four aren’t as good. None of the quartet of Brayden McNabb, Jamie McBain, Rob Scuderi or Luke Schenn received 20 minutes. McNabb got the most with 19:42 while the others were worked in. That is San Jose’s biggest advantage. They boast Marc-Edouard Vlasic and caveman Brent Burns followed by Martin and Justin Braun, giving them a solid top four. Brendan Dillon and deadline acquisition Roman Polak round it out.

With the Sharks defending well in front of Jones, it’ll be interesting to see what a championship caliber Kings come up with. They’ve been in this spot before and did it the hard way by dropping Game 3 and then winning the final four to stun the Sharks. We don’t advise that risky strategy this time. Win tonight or it’s over. The action can be caught on NBCSN. If there’s overtime between the Caps and Flyers, then they’ll shift it to NHL Network or USA.

It should be a great night of playoff hockey. Enjoy it!

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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