Jim Mone/Associated Press
Two first-round playoff series could come to an end Wednesday night, as the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks have a chance to sweep their opponents.
The Blues are one of the shocking stories of the playoffs, winning three close games against the Minnesota Wild. Goalie Jake Allen has been the architect of the 3-0 advantage, as he has held the Wild to three goals in three games.
For the majority of the season, the Wild had been the top team in the Western Conference, but they slumped badly in the final third of the season. Still, most favored Minnesota in the series, and the deficit is surprising.
The Blues will host the Wild at 9:30 p.m. ET, and they will advance to the conference semifinal round with a victory.
Here’s the full schedule for the remainder of the first round of the playoffs.
|Wednesday Night Stanley Cup Schedule|
|Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs||Toronto, 2-1||7 p.m.||NBCSN||Washington|
|Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins||Ottawa, 2-1||7:30 p.m.||USA||Boston|
|Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues||St. Louis, 3-0||9:30 p.m.||NBCSN||St. Louis|
|Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames||Anaheim, 3-0||10 p.m.||USA||Calgary|
|NHL.com; Silverman predictions|
The Ducks have had their share of playoff nightmares over the years, but they overcame a 4-1 deficit in Game 3 to beat the Calgary Flames 5-4 in overtime Monday night.
The winning goal by Corey Perry gave Anaheim a 3-0 advantage in the series and left the Flames in a state of shock. Anaheim used late third-period goals to gain wins at home in the first two games of the series, but it appeared the Ducks would get blown out at the Saddledome.
However, when Shea Theodore scored late in the second period for the Ducks, it became the start of their comeback. Nate Thompson and Theodore would score in the latter half of the third period to tie the score before Perry scored the game-winner.
The Flames will try to stay alive by winning the fourth game at home. The match will get underway at 10 p.m ET.
The Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs are not in a position to close out their series, but both can take commanding 3-1 leads.
The Senators have won back-to-back, 4-3 overtime decisions over the Boston Bruins, and they are clearly quite comfortable playing against their Atlantic Division rivals.
Ottawa has beaten Boston in seven of its last eight meetings, including six of seven this year. However, the Bruins have had surges in each of the first three games, and they are bound to play with desperation to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole.
Boston scored three goals in the second period of Game 2 and took a 3-1 lead before the Senators rallied to tie the game in the third and win it in overtime on a goal by Dion Phaneuf.
The Bruins overcame a 3-0 deficit in Game 3 with another three-goal rally in the second period that allowed them to tie the game, but they could not put the tiebreaker behind Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson in the third period even though they held a significant edge in play.
Boston has been hurt by injuries to their defensive crew, including Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Colin Miller and Brandon Carlo. There’s a chance that Miller and Carlo could return in Game 4, but there are no guarantees.
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Ottawa has moved to the lead in this series because of its opportunistic nature in overtime and the stellar play of slick defenseman Erik Karlsson. His speed and creativity have given the Sens an edge at key moments throughout the series.
The Maple Leafs have also won back-to-back overtime games over the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals, and they have gone toe-to-toe with the talented Caps and looked solid in the process.
The play of rookies Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander has been vital for the Leafs, as their speed has kept the Caps from dominating.
It’s clear that Toronto is not intimidated, and it should have an excellent chance of playing on even terms at home Wednesday night and possibly taking a 3-1 lead in the series.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
While the first round is basically at its midpoint, it looks like the teams that will emerge through the grueling postseason are not the ones who were favored at the start of the postseason.
The Chicago Blackhawks are trailing the Nashville Predators 3-0 and barely resemble the team that has won three Stanley Cups since 2010.
The Capitals have struggled regularly in the postseason, and that continues to be an issue this time around against the Leafs.
We see the Edmonton Oilers and the Predators meeting in the Western Conference Final, with Connor McDavid and the Oilers emerging for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Oilers are locked in a 2-2 tie with the San Jose Sharks and were beaten badly Tuesday night, 7-0, but this team has the weapons to make a deep run.
We see the Caps finding a way to scratch out their series against the Maple Leafs, but it will not work out well for them when they meet the Pittsburgh Penguins in the conference semifinal round.
Pittsburgh should meet the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Final, and the Penguins will have too much firepower for Claude Julien’s Habs.
The Stanley Cup Final will feature McDavid vs. Sidney Crosby, and after the Penguins win a couple of early games, the young and powerful Oilers will come back and pull off the upset.
The Stanley Cup will return to Edmonton for the first time since 1990.