Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins (-180, 5)
Series tied 2-2
This one may not have the flash and dash of the Penguins-Flyers series, but if you’re looking for pure, passionate playoff hockey, this is your matchup. Four games have been played. Each team has won two. And every tilt has been decided by one goal. You don’t get much better than that.
A Braden boost
The Capitals, in the Alex Ovechkin Era, have long suffered with a lack of identity between the pipes. Goaltenders come and go, and without consistency in net, Washington’s never truly threatened for a title.
Perhaps Braden Holtby will solve all of that. For now, he’s just trying to beat the Bruins, and he’s on his way. In four games, he has made 148 saves and posted a 1.60 GAA. He also has a .953 save percentage, a 2-2 record, and it appears as if the Capitals are feeding off his progression. They are building momentum off his key saves and it’s almost as if he’s no longer viewed as a third stringer.
Outlasting the Stanley Cup champions in what might be a seven-game series could be too tall a task for Holtby. But he seems to have passed every other test so far. Nothing he does from here on in would surprise.
Rich get richer
The playoffs are built for a player like Boston center Rich Peverley, an undrafted find that fits the Bruins' mold. He is, after all, a grinder; someone unafraid to take on any role that coach Claude Julien gives him. And along that way, Peverley has been a shining star in this series.
He scored his second goal of the postseason in Game 4, Boston's lone tally of the night, and has three blocks and 11 shots on net. Peverley had 11 goals and 42 points in the regular season and in Game 4, he was a plus-1 on 27 shifts, covering 21:44 of ice time.
They like Laich
Ovechkin hasn't been burned for taking too many gambles and he'll take four points into Game 5. But forward Brooks Laich has been with him step for step, and he’s a prime reason why the Capitals have this series knotted.
Laich, a left-handed shot at the center position, has one goal and four points, which is tied with Ovechkin for the team lead. But Laich plays a sound two-way game, as well, and that has risen to the surface. He has four hits and seven blocked shots and is third on the team with a plus-2 rating.
Washington has won its last five Saturday games, including Game 2 of this series. Boston has won eight of its last 11 when playing on one day's rest. The under is 3-1 so far in this series.
Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers (-170, 5)
Series tied 2-2
Maybe there’s something to the regular season, after all. The Senators gave the Rangers fits before the playoffs began, and there has been some carryover into the postseason. Ottawa has kept up with New York and glides into Manhattan with confidence.
All about Anton
The postseason is often a time to find someone new - someone unexpected to lift a team out of adversity. And maybe for the high-flying Rangers, that will be defenseman Anton Stralman.
Stralman opened the scoring in Game 4 with a power-play goal. It was his second of the series and he now has three points, eight blocked shots and is a plus-2.
He was quiet in the regular season, though he made the most of his opportunities. He finished with two goals and 18 points, but the final rating of plus-9 is probably what stands out most, and gives coach John Tortorella confidence on the back line. Tortorella is still working him along slowly. In Game 4, he had just 21 shifts covering 19:13 of ice time.
As the regular season winded down, there was a lot of talk about Buffalo sharpshooter Marcus Foligno and his end-of-year tear. Marcus, in 14 games after a callup from the AHL, had six goals, seven assists and was a plus-6. But his brother, Nick, has been a true force for Ottawa in the postseason while Marcus is home on the couch.
Nick had 15 goals and 47 points in the regular season. He was among many pleasant surprises as the Senators overcame expectations and landed in the postseason. But in Round 1, he's been even better.
Nick has a goal, three points and 13 hits as the series comes back to New York. He also has nine shots on goal, six penalty minutes and has frankly been in the middle of everything.
The Game 2 win at Madison Square Garden last Saturday might have been his best effort of the series. He had jump, often breaking into the Rangers' zone with a burst down the boards. He also had a goal and three shots on net.
Coming at you in waves
Tortorella and Rangers general manager Glen Sather would have told you, prior to the series, that New York's depth is not only a reason the Rangers are the No. 1 seed, but a reason this team can go a long way. And through four games, it's hard to argue with the depth, at least offensively.
Headed into this pivotal Game 5, New York has not one, not two, but seven players with three points. Indeed, Marian Gaborik, Artem Anisimov, Dan Girardi, Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle and Stralman all have a trio on the leaderboard, and Richards and Boyle have combined for 34 shots.
It’s not gotten them too far just yet. They are two losses away from this great season being lost. But two of the next three are at home, and with layers of offensive depth to throw on the ice at crunch time, it’s likely New York will advance.
Ottawa has won seven of the last nine as a road underdog, but New York has won eight of the last nine after two-days' rest. It’s tough to get a read on totals in this series. The over-under is just 1-1 with two pushes so far.