After last night, we could all use a brief reprieve. With two Games 7 scheduled for tomorrow, tonight’s pair of Games 6 could be a relaxing time, teams facing elimination and all. If you are of the belief that the first round of the NHL playoffs is the best time of year to be a hockey fan (I prefer the second round, story lines are less likely to fall through the cognitive cracks), this has to be the best part of the best part, right? Five elimination games in a row, starting last night, and possibly going even farther into Wednesday. The stakes have not been higher yet this year.
What’s on tap
Washington Capitals at Carolina Hurricanes Game 6 (WAS leads 3-2)
4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS, FS-CR, NBCSWA
With every win this round going to the home team, the Hurricanes have to be feeling pretty good about extending the series to seven. ‘Canes head coach Rod Brind’amour hinted at the possibility of one or more of their injured players returning tonight, which would be a huge boon to a team that looked thoroughly outgassed and outclassed in Game 5.
Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars Game 6 (DAL leads 3-2)
5:30 p.m. PT/8:30 p.m. ET on CNBC, SN1, TVAS2, FS-SW, FS-TN
With a win tonight, the Stars can be the next in a long line of teams to knock off a higher seed in the first round this year, and it would be the first time the Stars win a series at home since eliminating the San Jose Sharks in quadruple overtime in 2008. The Stars haven’t been able to get much depth scoring in this series, but also haven’t really needed much: with three goals and seven points in Game 5, the freshly reunited Jamie Benn, Alex Radulov, Tyler Seguin line is near unstoppable, and will have to be dealt with if the Predators want to still be hockey players tomorrow.
Sebastian Aho: Aho led Carolina with 83 points in 82 games during the regular season, but has posted just three (one goal, two assists) in five games against Washington. The Caps have done an excellent job limiting Aho’s chances and keeping his line to the perimeter, but he’ll have to find a way to produce if the ‘Canes want to keep surging.
Alexander Radulov: Radulov’s four goals and five points in the first five games of this series are a symptom of Nashville’s inability to handle the Stars’ top trio with any regularity. Maybe Stars owner Jim Lites was thinking 12 moves ahead this whole time, because his stars are playing like stars again some time after his verbal excoriation earlier this season.
The defending Cup champions get the nod in a choice between two elimination games, with Capitals-Hurricanes, we get the team that most exemplified the arguments of shot attempt domination against the one that most exemplified skill and shot placement. Quality versus quantity may not be finally and permanently answered with this series, but it’s an interesting case study.