Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
Clinching will be anything but a cinch for the three teams looking to close out their respective series in Saturday’s NHL playoff action, but it should be fun to watch.
The first round of these playoffs has seen plenty of tense, brilliant hockey, even if two of the series ended in sweeps and another completed in five games. Road teams have fared surprisingly well, teams have engineered wild comebacks and a staggering 15 games have gone to overtime.
The intensity is unlikely to dissipate on Saturday. Here’s the viewing schedule and a look at how the series are stacking up so far:
|2017 NHL Playoffs Viewing Schedule for Saturday, April 22|
|3 pm.||5||St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild||STL 3-2 MIN||NBC||NBCSports.com|
|8 p.m.||6||Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers||NYR 3-2 MTL||NBC||NBCSports.com|
|10:30 p.m.||6||Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks||EDM 3-2 SJS||NBCSN||NBCSports.com|
Live-streaming available at NBCSports.com.
Of the the three teams trying to clinch on Saturday, the St. Louis Blues are in the best position. Sure, they are playing on the road against the Minnesota Wild, but they are up 3-1 in the series and stifled the Wild’s offense to score two road wins at the beginning of the series.
It’s been a frustrating first round for the Wild, the second-highest scoring team in the regular season, at 3.21 goals per game. Minnesota has peppered Blues goalie Jake Allen constantly throughout the series, outshooting the Blues 145-107 in four games, but it has just six goals compared to the Blues’ nine.
The Wild managed to beat the Blues 2-0 in Game 4 to stave off elimination, recording just 28 shots—the same amount as their opponents.
Allen certainly didn’t lose his form in Game 4; the first goal came on a botched play by the Blues, allowing Charlie Coyle to shoot with Allen standing away from the goal. Here’s the shot, footage shared by the Minnesota Wild:
Minnesota Wild @mnwild
.@CharlieCoyle_3 gets #mnwild on the board first with his second of the postseason! #MINvsSTL https://t.co/SLDIGpoB8P
4/20/2017, 2:28:32 AM
If Allen stays in front of the net, keeps up the stonewalling work and gets a little bit more help on offense, the Blues should be able to clamp down this series at some point in the next three contests.
The New York Rangers are playing at home against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 as they look to clinch the 3-2 series. The Rangers have won the past two games by 2-1 and 3-2 (overtime) scorelines, and they are 11-10 ahead in overall scoring in this series. In other words, expect another tense, hard-fought game on Saturday between these two evenly matched teams.
As the New York Times‘ Allan Kreda notes, Madison Square Garden has hardly been home sweet home for the Blueshirts in recent playoffs: “The Rangers responded to their previous home challenge with a strong effort in Game 4 to tie the series. They had lost their previous six home playoff games and eight of their last 10 home games in the regular season.”
Seth Wenig/Associated Press
The Rangers are looking to clamp down and make it two wins in a row at home, lest they have to go back out on the road.
“We want to look at it as a Game 7,” defenseman Brendan Smith said Friday, per NHL.com’s Matt Calamia. “We don’t want to come back [to Montreal] because then anything can happen.”
The final game on Saturday features the Edmonton Oilers on the road, looking to eliminate the San Jose Sharks in Game 6.
The Oilers, led by the brilliant 20-year-old Connor McDavid, are looking to win their first postseason series since they beat the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the 2006 Western Conference Final.
Edmonton has shown great resilience against the Sharks, who have made the postseason in 12 of the past 13 seasons. San Jose thrashed the Oilers 7-0 in Game 4, only for Edmonton to win Game 5 by a score of 4-3 in overtime. It was a heartening performance in several respects.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
The Sharks were up 3-1 by the middle of the second period, only for the Oilers to storm back and score three consecutive goals to win the game. McDavid recorded just one assist in the contest, making it a real team effort.
However, they have to go back to SAP Center for Game 6, the site of the seven-goal shellacking. Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer believes his team has been better overall the past two games and that they can close out a tough, unpredictable series, per the Edmonton Journal‘s Robert Tychkowski:
I like our game. We’re left with the taste of overtime, but the 60-minute game we came out and weathered the storm, found a way to get the lead and found a way to play with the lead right until two minutes left. There was a lot of good stuff on the road here in a tough environment.
The Sharks are the veteran team in this series, hoping to turn away the upstart Oilers.
The winner of this series will have a Round 2 date with the Anaheim Ducks, who swept the Calgary Flames in the first round.