Tonight, there are two games. Both are Game Sixes. You have the Blue Jackets looking to stay alive at home against the Bruins. In what’s been one of the most competitive and physical series in recent years, it’s Boston with a chance to closeout Columbus on NBCSN.
This has been the most entertaining hockey of the second round. You’ve had the first two games require overtime with each team winning in sudden death for a split. You’ve had twists and turns featuring bone crushing hits, big saves and momentum shifting goals. You now have the one and only John Tortorella guaranteeing a Game Seven which would be back in Boston on Wednesday.
“Things happen for a reason. And I truly believe that. We’ll be back here for a Game Seven,” Tortorella told reporters following a tough 4-3 loss in Game Six that saw his team come within a goalpost of forcing sudden death.
David Pastrnak scored the winner with 1:28 left on a gorgeous feed from who else but Brad Marchand. The play never should’ve happened. Artemi Panarin had a brutal moment turning over the puck in the Bruins zone and failing to get back on Pastrnak’s goal. He was victimized twice in the pivotal Game Five. It was a foolish puck decision on his part. The Bread Man and defense will never be in the same sentence. He’s a great offensive player who can dominate puck possession.
The question entering Game Six later is how will the Blue Jackets respond to losing two straight with their backs to the wall. Panarin has provided offense with six points in five games. Matt Duchene has a pair of goals including the game-winner in Game Two. Seth Jones has been good.
Columbus needs more out of Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Zach Werenski. They’ve done very little. How about scoring a goal? That would be a welcome change.
As much criticism as he’s taken, Tuukka Rask has outplayed Sergei Bobrovsky. He brings a 2.02 GAA and .936 save percentage into tonight. That’s how good he’s been in the series, responding with consecutive clutch performances to put Boston on the verge of the Eastern Conference Final where Carolina awaits.
Should Torts be confident in his team? Absolutely. They’ve been resilient this Spring, battling to make the postseason. They’re a scrappy group with enough skill and grit to force a deciding seventh game. They’ve also played well on home ice losing only once this Spring. They must erase Game Four by playing their best hockey. It’s do or die.
The Sharks look to finish off the Avalanche in the night cap. San Jose got two goals from emerging star Tomas Hertl in their 2-1 win the other night at the Shark Tank. Hertl redirected a point shot for a huge power play goal to tie Game Five late in the second period. He deposited a rebound for the winner in the third. San Jose got splendid goaltending from a rejuvenated Martin Jones, and did a great job defensively protecting the one goal lead for the win.
The series has finally gotten nasty. There have been some scrums and words exchanged. That should make for an intriguing Game Six in Colorado. The Avalanche will look for a big night from superstar Nathan MacKinnon, who was blanketed the other night. As he goes, so do the Avs. He and Mikko Rantanen are the keys to forcing a Game Seven.
Either two more series will end or we’ll get the best theatre in sports.