After the San Jose Sharks gave you another dose of your physician prescribed cardio exercise last night by taking yet another late penalty in a one goal game against the Colorado Avalanche, a nice relaxing tilt with some comfortably low stakes may be just what you need. While the Western Conference is a little farther along, thanks to some rest for the Eastern Conference series (East coast bias, probably), two teams are looking to take a third win tonight, what was until just recently considered a comfortable stranglehold on their respective series.
A night off from watching Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar skate circles around our tired teal friends sounds lovely, and there are more than a few intriguing story lines to follow on other branches of the playoff tree.
What’s on tap
New York Islanders at Carolina Hurricanes Game 3 (CAR leads 2-0)
4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
Carolina goaltender Petr Mrazek has been the team’s MVP so far this series, allowing one goal on 41 shots over two games in Brooklyn. They’ll have to find a new one tonight, though, as Mrazek suffered a lower body injury in Game 2, opening the door for Curtis McElhinney to walk through and save them. If winning games in which they are badly out shot is a bad sign of things to come, look for the ‘Canes to suffer tonight; they won Game 2 by a 2-1 score despite being pummeled on the shot clock to the tune of 27-18.
The Islanders have plenty of offensive talent, even though their stifling defensive system likely limited their production in the regular season, totaling just 223 goals, good for 22nd in the league. They have an opportunity here to take advantage of a Hurricanes team whose year long shot attempt dominance may be slipping and, with a 3-0 deficit just on the other edge of the cliff, they’re as close to must-win as they can get without actually being there.
St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars Game 4 (STL leads 2-1)
6:30 p.m. PT/9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS
Not without its share of controversy, the Blues-Stars series finally started showing some teeth on Monday. Looking to shakeup his offensive power houses, Dallas head coach Jim Montgomery swapped rookie phenom Roope Hintz with Tyler Seguin in his top six this morning, but considering recent production, that may be more a factor of capitalizing on the success of Hintz and Jason Dickinson than that of Seguin and Jamie Benn.
St. Louis has played a style that should be familiar to those of us who have followed Blues hockey for a while, getting good production from right in front of the net. Considering how good Stars goalie Benjamin “been jammin’” Bishop has been all year, complicating his crease and sight lines seems to be a good strategy on paper, and has proven to be the case in practice as well. If the Blues can continue to get inside the Stars’ shell in the Dallas zone, they can take a commanding lead in the series tonight. Sharks fans should be rooting for the trailing team her, of course, hoping at least one of these series goes seven.
Jaccob Slavin: Long a darling of the analytics community, is this postseason Slavin’s coming out party? With ten points in nine games, all assists, and an adjusted 5-on-5 shot attempt share of 56.11 percent despite being fed a steady diet of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom for seven games, Slavin is driving the back end of the Hurricanes, who seem to be a definitively rear wheel drive team.
Pat Maroon: Maroon, the big lovable galoot, scored St. Louis’ game winner on Monday with just 1:38 remaining in regulation by doing what he does, crashing into the crease and getting in the way of pretty much everything. While not the traditional model of a game breaking hockey player, Maroon does what he does and is good at it, and has been a difference maker in this series so far.
Isles-Canes promises to be an exciting game, if only to see how Carolina adapts to a new face in the crease after Mrazek’s excellent work so far. The Isles have dominated the shot clock as of late, and it’s probably only a matter of time before they break through, but down in the series, time is not a luxury the defensive minded club can afford. Suspense!