How playoff trailers can force Game 7

BY foxsports • May 11, 2009

Entering this week the NHL's conference semifinals are coming down to the crunch, with the Penguins, Blackhawks, Hurricanes and defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings holding 3-2 leads in their respective best-of-7 series.

It's now up to the Capitals, Canucks, Bruins and Ducks to win the crucial Game 6 to force a seventh and deciding game.

  • Good news for the Capitals is superstar winger Alexander Ovechkin has been a scoring machine against Pittsburgh, a threat to score every time he's on the ice and the most dominant player in this series.

    The bad news is that of the 15 goals the Capitals have scored against Pittsburgh he's accounted for nearly half (7), with Nicklas Backstrom (3), Dave Steckel (2), Tomas Fleischmann (1), Milan Jurcina and Chris Clark potting the rest.

    The Penguins meanwhile have spread their scoring throughout their lineup, with 10 players — including superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin — finding the back of the Capitals' net.

    Credit the Penguins checking for keeping most of Washington's scorers in check but the Capitals need a better effort from Fleischmann, Alexander Semin, Mike Green, Brooks Laich and Viktor Kozlov, who've gone quiet for the most part.

    Over-reliance on Ovechkin and a resurgent Backstrom won't be enough if the Caps hope to push this series to a seventh game.

  • The Ducks defensive game has been surprisingly weak against the Red Wings, outshot by nearly two-to-one margins throughout this series.

    They were able to overcome this earlier in the series thanks to the strong goaltending of Jonas Hiller and the offensive production of blueliners Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger and forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

    Unfortunately however it caught up to them in Games 4 and 5, both victories by the Wings. Like the Capitals, the Ducks have relied too much on their top players whilst the Red Wings are getting contributions throughout their lineup.

    More troubling for Anaheim is the health of Getzlaf, who seemed to be laboring in Game 5, leading to speculation he could be nursing a leg injury.

    Whatever the reason Getzlaf and his linemates were shut out in Game 5 and if he is injured other Ducks must step up against the stifling Red Wings checking to avoid elimination in Game 6.

  • The Bruins already knew what it felt like to face elimination against the upstart Hurricanes, down three games to one heading into Sunday's tilt.

    One Boston sports columnist suggested the Bruins might have taken the Hurricanes too lightly following the first two games in the series, but that certainly wasn't the case in Game 5 as they dominated the Hurricanes en route to a 4-0 victory.

    So have the real Bruins, the "Beasts of the East" that ruled the Eastern Conference this season and crushed the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, finally regained their form? Or was their Game 5 victory a desire not to be eliminated on home ice combined with perhaps some overconfidence on the Hurricanes part?

    In Games 3 and 4 of this series the Bruins appeared dazzled by the speed of the Hurricanes' aggressive forechecking and struggled to score against Carolina's rock-steady Cam Ward, but in Game 5 they were finally playing with more speed, determination and physicality.

    The Bruins however aren't out of the woods yet as they return to Carolina still facing elimination, but if their best players are finally emerging from their hibernation of the previous four games it bodes well for their chances to force a seventh game.

  • The Canucks have struggled throughout their series with the energetic Blackhawks to hold a lead.

    In all but one game thus far in this series the Blackhawks have stormed back after falling behind and in all but one of those games they've won.

    Vancouver's players appear to be struggling against the Blackhawks speed and skill, particularly Chicago's defense corps, as Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, Cam Barker and Duncan Keith have been dominating at both ends of the ice.

    The Canucks experience and their superstar goaltender Roberto Luongo was supposed to give them the advantage in this series, but many of their veterans have appeared slower than the Blackhawks, who've at times made Luongo seem ordinary.

    Luongo will have to be at his very best and his teammates must find an extra gear if they're to force a seventh game back home in Vancouver.

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