Five things to know about the NHL playoffs
Toronto Maple Leafs centre John Tavares (91) checks Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) during first period, second round, game one, NHL Stanley Cup hockey action in Toronto, Tuesday, May 2, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, May 10, 2023 8:27AM EDT
When the second round of the post-season was about to start, sports betting sites determined Toronto and Edmonton were the favourites to meet in the Stanley Cup final.
What a difference a week makes.
If the Maple Leafs don't win tonight in Florida they'll be cashing in their chips. And if the Oilers lose at home tonight, they'll head back to Vegas trailing the Golden Knights 3-1 in their best-of-seven showdown and will have to run the table to advance.
Here are five things to know about the unpredictable NHL playoffs:
JOE BIG OR GO HOME TIME FOR LEAFS
Joe will go was Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe's quick answer yesterday to the goaltending question that kept a lot of trainers and fans on edge when Ilya Samsonov left Sunday's Game 3 against the Florida Panthers with an upper-body injury.
With the Maple Leafs looking to avoid a Sunrise sweep tonight, and trying to figure out why their Core Four doesn't score, the 24-year-old Joseph Woll brought a positive vibe to the emergency starter role and his team's troublesome situation.
Woll believes his team's stars are due for a big game, and that he'll do his best tonight to ensure there's a Game 5 back in Toronto on Friday.
Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk said it doesn't matter who's in net or in the rival's lineup, because all the pressure is on Toronto — and has been since they were heavily favoured to beat the wild-card Cats, who limped into the post-season.
When asked about the difficulty a lot of teams have trying to close a series, Tkachuk didn't seemed worried, perhaps comforted by the fact his team just eliminated the record-setting Bruins in a Game 7 in Boston.
IGNORING THE NOISE IN FLORIDA
The Leafs don't need (or want) to be reminded they can't afford another loss in Round 2. They also don't care what people outside of their dressing room are saying or writing about their inability to score or win, even if it's true.
Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews, two Toronto players on the receiving end of growing criticism, said every player is trying to step up and make a difference and they understand they have to be much better than the first three games against the Panthers.
Coach Keefe said with just a single date currently remaining on Toronto's schedule — and the team's hopes on life support — the message to the entire group is clear. Not just the big guns currently shooting blanks.
He says they need to win tonight, then worry about Friday. The coach feels his club is more than capable of rattling off a series of wins, but they must win one game before that discussion becomes a thing.
OILERS PUMPED TO FOIL KNIGHTS
The Edmonton Oilers, fresh off a 5-1 beating on home ice Monday, are eager to make amends tonight and tie their best-of-seven series with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Forward Evander Kane, who was blowing kisses to Vegas fans in a 5-1 Oilers win in Game 2, said it's important to flush and forget Monday's stinker and prepare to jump on the Knights early and often in Game 4.
Connor McDavid, who was held off the scoresheet Monday, promised that fans at Rogers Place would see a different and better version of the Oilers than the team that looked lethargic in Game 3 after splitting the first two games in Vegas.
The Oilers will be shooting pucks at Adin Hill tonight instead of injured netminder Laurent Brossoit. The Golden Knights are used to the goaltending carousel, but they’re not the only team in the series with questions in net. The Oilers weren't ready to name their Game 4 goalie last night after Stuart Skinner was yanked during Game 3 for a subpar performance.
CANES CLICKING ON OFFENCE
The Carolina Hurricanes, who struggled to score in their first-round series against the New York Islanders, seem to have fixed that problem against the New Jersey Devils.
The visiting Hurricanes broke open a 1-1 game last night with five unanswered goals in the second period — including four in five minutes — to crush the Devils 6-1 and grab a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The Canes have outscored the Devils 21-11 in four games with most of New Jersey's offence coming in its 8-4 Game 3 win. Game 5 is Thursday in Raleigh, N.C.
The Hurricanes, who will have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs based on their 113-point regular season, are one win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference final and a date with either the Florida Panthers or Toronto Maple Leafs.
PAVELSKI SHINES FOR STARS
The Dallas Stars were scorched 7-2 Sunday and a number of players and coaches were sleepless in Seattle after falling behind the second-year Kraken 2-1 in the Western Conference semifinal series.
The Stars slept better last night after crushing the Kraken 6-3 to tie the series and regain home-ice advantage. Game 5 is Thursday in The Big D.
Joe Pavelski, the 38-year-old veteran from Plover, Wis., scored his sixth goal of the series on a second-period power play. It was his 70th career playoff goal, tying him with Steve Yzerman for 19th place.
The only active players with more playoff goals are Alex Ovechkin (72) and Sidney Crosby (71).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 10, 2023.