The San Jose Sharks seem determined to do everything the hard way.
Losing nine of their last 12 games in the regular season ensured that the Calgary Flames would win the division, forcing the Sharks to face off against the very good and dangerous Vegas Golden Knights in the first round, and last night’s loss in Denver to the Colorado Avalanche robbed them of the opportunity to finish the series quickly and rest before colliding with the winner of the Central Division.
Now that three of the four second round series are tied at two, we are more or less guaranteed to see at least one Game 7, which is delightful, unless the Sharks are in it, in which case it’s terrifying. Expect to see a better effort from the Sharks in front of their home fans on Saturday, where head coach Peter DeBoer has more control over which line and pairing Nathan MacKinnon victimizes from shift to shift, and where the air has just a bit more oxygen to breathe.
Tonight, though, there’s another team facing elimination, and their future looks pretty dire.
What’s on tap
New York Islanders at Carolina Hurricanes Game 4 (CAR leads 3-0)
4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
The Islanders are finished, right? Even though Carolina has won every game this series, they probably never looked as dominant as they did on Wednesday night. Every single Hurricanes skater recorded over 50 percent shares of shot attempts and scoring chances at 5-on-5 in a game that was as close to a must-win for New York as can exist other than tonight. Tied at two in the third period, the Islanders managed just three scoring chances facing a 3-0 hole, and with that kind of production, a 3-0 hole is what you get. If they want to mount even a ghost of a comeback, they’ll need Robin Lehner (he of the .934 regular season 5-on-5 save percentage and the .915 this series) to save them. Again.
Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues Game 5 (Series tied 2-2)
6:30 p.m. PT/ 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS
In our last dayoffs thread, we talked about the mix up in Dallas’ top six, and that was a major factor in their ability to tie the series up in Game 4. Jason Dickinson’s goal was partially the product of Tyler Seguin’s hard work, John Klingberg’s came from some strong pressure from Dickinson, Seguin, and Mats Zuccarello, and Roope Hintz’s was assisted by both Alexander Radulov and Jamie Benn. Similarly to Lehner, Benjamin “been jammin’” Bishop has turned back into a human this series, as his .945 save percentage from the first rounds has regressed to .906 in this one, but the Stars are providing enough offense to offset their keeper’s mediocrity.
Curtis McElhinney: As mentioned above, New York was not very good in Game 3, but McElhinney still had to make a few strong saves of the 28 shots he face, and for a 35-year-old keeper making his first playoff start, we have to change our expectations a bit. With Petr Mrazek expected to miss his second game tonight, it falls on the elder statesman to put the Islanders away for good.
Jordan Binnington: In a series as tightly contested as this one, it may come down to whichever goalie blinks first, or in this case, which goalie stops blinking first. Binnington’s .904 save percentage in this series is not much worse than Bishop’s .906, and when both teams have scored nine even strength goals, and the Stars have out-chanced the Blues by just four over four games (123-119), one big save could be the difference in the series.
I know I said a lot about not missing elimination games, but with the Islanders all but finished, we’re having trouble taking our eyes off of Stars-Blues. Every game has been tightly contested, and both teams are making great plays and highlight reel moves every period. The Central has been the most entertaining showdown outside of San Jose-Colorado, and with the ‘Canes finishing up, we’ll take the series worth investing in for a few more nights.
What are you watching?