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Playoffs Dayoffs: Preview and discussion thread, 4/24

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What just happened?

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: Justin Williams #14 of the Carolina Hurricanes looks on against the Washington Capitals in the first period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena on Apri Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

If you’re here after last night, you may have a problem.

The last game of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs’ first round is tonight and, after what was maybe the most exhilarating game in San Jose Sharks history (if not NHL playoff history), it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a bit of a letdown. Still, maybe a little step back in intensity is what we need after the Sharks’ emotional Game 7 win over the Vegas Golden Knights took two years off of the end of our lives. If you’re still in need of a fix, the Carolina Hurricanes are trying to knock off the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in a winner-takes-all game this afternoon.

What’s on tap

Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals Game 7 (Series tied 3-3)
4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS, NBCSWA, FS-CR
After the upset eliminations of the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames, and Tampa Bay Lightning, the Caps are the only division winner left standing, if only for a few more hours. Unfortunately for the cardiac ‘Canes, immediate history is not on their side: the home team has won every game in this series so far, most recently in a controversial 5-2 whipping in Raleigh. This series has had a little bit of everything: with plenty of hits, fights, controversy on both counts, close wins, and blowouts on both sides. While that recent history is damning, going a little farther back should provide Carolina fans with hope: the Capitals are 5-11 all time in Games 7, the worst winning percentage in the league (except, of course, for the Knights’ 0-1), and the Hurricanes are 4-0. It won’t be Sharks-Knights, but it’s still Game 7, and two fan bases are living and dying by the outcome.

Who’s hot?

Justin Williams: The man they call Mr. Game 7 was Mr. Game 6 in Raleigh on Monday, extending Carolina’s lead to two just over a minute after what would have been Alex Ovechkin’s game-tying goal was disallowed due to goaltender interference. Williams has played in eight Games 7 in his career and has only lost one of them. That loss came with the 2017 Capitals, and two of his seven wins game with the Stanley Cup winning 2006 Hurricanes. There’s plenty of history for Williams on both sides of the ice here, and it seems to be in his favor: in 23 playoff elimination games in his career, Williams has 27 points. If there’s one player to watch tonight, it has to be him.

John Carlson: Fresh off of a well-deserved Norris Trophy nomination good good season, Carlson’s five points in six playoff games against the ‘Canes is a step up from his regular season production of 70 points in 80 games. A target for regression this season by many of us, Carlson has bucked the trend, and continues to improve during the second season.

We’re watching

What do you think this column is, some kind of joke?

Okay, yeah, it mostly is, but the decision tonight is less what to watch and more whether to watch. If you need a day to breath before tackling tomorrow’s round two action, we won’t judge you (much), but Games 7 are special, and missing them is a tragedy. Anyone who turned last night’s game off after the Knights grabbed their three-goal lead can attest to that.