Here are your Evening Puck Headlines and Previews: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.
Look, we don't want to say the postseason seedings fell in the NHL's favor, but Stanley Cup playoff ratings on the Buck Huntin'/Cage Fightin'/Lindsay Soto network are up nearly 50 percent from last season. Not to mention that Games 3 and 4 of the New York Rangers' series scored the highest ratings for hockey on MSG Network in almost 12 years. Yowzer. [Slap Shot]
Speaking of that battle, Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau says it's now a "one-game series" at what was called a somber optional skate. [Capitals Insider]
Keys for the Sharks: First off, hope that Dan Boyle brings it with an MVP-level performance like the one he had in the Game 3 win. Hope that the line combinations can solve Jonas Hiller again. But more to the point, Mr. Plank says it all: "Tonight is about the trenches, about winning those puck possession battles just like game three, about skating in the neutral zone and beating the man to the dump-in, about having that same speed allow the support to gain early positioning, about generating cycle after cycle after cycle."
Keys for the Ducks: And yet Randy Carlyle isn't preaching an in-the-trenches muck-fest; the Ducks coach said the password is: "skate." But mostly, the Ducks should come into this game confident that they still have the upper hand ... and that they're still the most well-choreographed collection of male exotic dancers in the NHL. From Jib Jab and reader Alex E., try and un-burn this from your cerebral cortex. Click the image for the video.
Keys for the Flyers: Win the special teams battle. That 0-for-8 in Game 4 is as much as reason the Flyers are facing elimination as anything. The Penguins are the better team in this series at even-strength. Philly needs to convert on the power play. But don't panic; hey, it's not as if the team is 0-5 at Mellon in the last two postseasons, right? Oh ...
Keys for the Penguins: Stay out of the sin bin. Hope that the lineup changes make a positive difference. And commit to what Coach Dan Bylzma spoke about before Game 5: Playing better defense in front of Marc-Andre Fleury, so the guy doesn't have to turn aside nearly 50 shots.
Keys for the Red Wings: Uh ... how about "continue to be the Red Wings?"
Keys for the Blue Jackets: Keep fighting for the hometown fans that desperately want to see a win on home ice. Go to the net hard. If all else fails, just know that in the words of Coach Ken Hitchcock: "What we saw in the regular season is not who they are; what we're seeing now is what they're capable of." And know that Adam Proteau of The Hockey News had to wear this at the game for ever doubting the BeeJays were a playoff team:
Keys for the Devils: Forecheck, forecheck and forecheck. Again, when the Devils pressure the Carolina defense, it's led to turnovers and great chances against Cam Ward. When they've been unable to carry the play, Carolina's forwards have made life hell in the Devils' zone. This becomes an even more important point with banger Bryce Salvador out with a knee injury tonight.
Keys for the Hurricanes: No Anton Babchuk, via the Star Ledger. And Bubba makes the point that the Canes need to be careful around Martin Brodeur's crease after that postgame freak-out; the zebras will be watching for anything resembling interference tonight.
Meanwhile, in the rest of creation ...
• Predictably, the NHL denies interest in placing a second team in Toronto. Which is understandable, in the sense that they're always taking meetings about these things. And yet why does this scenario seem so much more plausible than, say, Vegas? [Canwest]
• Jim Kelley asks for consistency from the NHL on goalie interference calls in the Stanley Cup playoffs. We'll file this in the same bin as our request to the NHL to give every blogger named Wyshynski and Leahy $7,000 a day until the Leafs win their next Cup. It's a bin called "[Gretzky] That Won't Happen Ever." [Sportsnet]
• For those wondering why Capitals defenseman Mike Green hasn't done but jack and squat since Game 1, GM George McPhee reports that the Norris finalist is under the weather. When did they start calling the Rangers defense "the weather?" [ESPN]
• Bob Gainey calls Tampa Bay Lightning GM Brian Lawton "disgraceful" for leaking the names that the Montreal Canadiens were offering for Vincent Lecavalier. As opposed to, you know, being an embarrassment on skates in your centennial season. [Globe & Mail]
• Finally, the Kurtenblog is asking for the best hit of the postseason thus far. The Stuart/Umberger hit was huge; but is there going to be any topping this one for impact and controversy?