Every night during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, we’ll give you Three Things To Track for each game that night.
Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs (TOR leads 2-1)
7:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN
- Costco Sized Hockey: This series feels like we got it at wholesale, with 4 overtime periods played in just three games. With an overtime win in game three, the Leafs now have forced the Caps to win back-to-back games at some point to win the series. With so much hockey being played, fatigue is an issue, but the youth of the Leafs don't seem too affected. They will have a chance to grab a commanding 3-1 series lead tonight.
- Black and Blue Liners: Both teams are experiencing injuries to their defense. Roman Polak left game two early with a lower body injury and is out for the remainder of the postseason. However, the Caps also lost a defenseman, Karl Alzner, to an upper body injury, ending a 599-game ironman streak. Alzner missed Game 3 and is likely to also miss Game 4. Nikita Zaitsev, who played all 82 regular season games, returned for the Leafs to replace Polak. The Caps have plugged Nate Schmidt into their top pairing with John Carlson. Schmidt recorded an assist in game three.
- Caps’ Stars are Rolling: Unlike previous postseasons for the Caps where they lacked scoring, the top line is getting it done. The top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie has recorded 44% of the team's total goals through three games. Oshie is tied with Justin Williams for the team lead with four, but has yet to put the puck in the net. The top line has also combined for 47.4% of the total forward point production. The Caps will need their depth to step up and contribute on the scoresheet because this top line can't do it all. -Zeke Lukow
Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins (OTT leads 2-1)
7:30 p.m ET, USA Network
- Retaliation Coming for Bobby Ryan? The Senators winger drew a roughing penalty in OT quite controversially, going after the head of Riley Nash. Nash then retaliated, and the ensuing power play won the game for Ottawa. Ryan's head may be a target tonight, so if you're one of those testosterone-oozing fight-a-holics, this game may be one for you (my money's on Marchand, but no major — just a good clean roughing penalty).
- Will the Bruins Get Hot? The Bruins have yet to score in the first period in the series, while Ottawa put up two in the first on Monday, an advantageous cushion once the Bruins found their groove. If the Bruins can avoid playing more defensively due to giving up early leads, it may help them down the road in terms of score and fatigue. They badly need to get some points on the board in the first twenty minutes.
- Quick Bursts or Paced Play? Much of the scoring on Monday came in bursts, many goals occurring within one or two minutes of each other. Those quick bursts both helped Ottawa break away early and Boston keep in it in hand in the second period. Will either of the teams be able to create offense that manages the puck consistently and, in turn, has consistent scoring momentum rather than a quick up-swing/down-swing? -Jake Crouse
Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues (STL leads 3-0)
9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN
- The Curious Case of Vladimir Tarasenko: Despite the Blues’ domination thus far, the Russian winger has been mostly silent in the first three games of the series. A stout Blues defense and the brick wall named Jake Allen have consumed the spotlight that Tarasenko usually commands with his offense. The scary thing for the Wild is that the Blues have been virtually flawless even without their star forward. Will tonight be the game that Tarasenko steps up? A big night from him would probably ensure a win and a series sweep from St. Louis.
- Devan Dubnyk’s Time to Shine: The Minnesota goaltender has been on the wrong side of this series thus far. Average play on his part has been magnified by incredible goalie play at the other end of the ice. While Dubnyk definitely isn't to be blamed for his team’s position, he hasn't been standing on his head. The Wild are in a deep hole right now and are going to need some special play in order to dig themselves out, starting with Dubnyk. History tells us that outstanding goalie play can completely carry a team through a series, and the Wild desperately need that right now.
- Show us some offense! The Wild have scored just 3 goals in 3 games and desperately need an offensive jump start. Where is it going to come from? After hopelessly waiting for the decorated Minnesota offense to step up for three straight games, I think the scoring needs to come from the blue line. Does one of the Wild blue liners have what it takes tonight? -Andrew Ahr
Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames (ANA leads 3-0)
10:00 p.m. ET, USA Network
- Up Against the Wall: It’s been nearly two years since the Flames’ last playoff win, also against the Ducks. If the Flames don’t snap that streak tonight, their season is done. Glen Gulutzan is tinkering around the edges a bit, swapping Curtis Lazar and Freddie Hamilton onto the fourth line at the expense of Matt Stajan and Lance Bouma, but the defensive pairings aren’t changing - and averaging nearly four goals against per game, the Flames need to tighten up in a hurry if they plan on extending the series.
- Randy Carlyle’s Decision in Net: John Gibson was shelled on Monday, allowing four goals on sixteen shots in under 30 minutes, and Jonathan Bernier came in to steady the ship and gave the Ducks a chance at an improbable comeback. Randy Carlyle, never one to tip his hand, has hinted that he may go back to Gibson tonight, but expect him to have a quick hook if his number-one goaltender struggles again.
- Slaying the Dragon: The Ducks are a ridiculous 19-3-1 against the Flames, including the playoffs, since the start of the 2014-15 season. Our sister blog Matchsticks and Gasoline in their game preview today laments the fact that the Flames seem to have fate conspiring against them: “The weird, unexplained and just plain dumb began happening. It’s not a question of whether the Flames can play with the Ducks because they have. Calgary has certainly earned the right to have won at least one of these games. At worst Calgary should be down 2-1. At best they should be up 2-1. That’s how unlucky the Flames have been.” If the Flames can shake the monkey off their backs, who knows what could happen? -Brian LeBlanc