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Four Things to Watch in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (May 3, 2022)

A pair of goalies will have extra pressure tonight, the Panthers get a huge piece of the puzzle back and the Flames need one of its top forwards to find his groove again. Get ready for the second night of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Tyler Toffoli

A pair of goalies will have extra pressure tonight, the Panthers get a huge piece of the puzzle back and the Flames need one of its top forwards to find his groove again. Get ready for the second night of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Pittsburgh vs. New York

Can Casey DeSmith lessen the blow?

Talk about pressure. 

With Tristan Jarry out for at least the first two games, the Penguins are giving Casey DeSmith the net to kick off the playoffs. He has looked good as of late, posting a 6-2-1 record in his past nine games since March 31, highlighted by a 52-save shutout April 21.

DeSmith will be making his playoff debut on Tuesday, and doing so against the Vezina Trophy favorite, Igor Shesterkin. The Penguins enter the tournament as underdogs, and, in the past 10 games, they have the 25th-most points among all NHL teams. But it's still a group that has had no issue overcoming adversity all playoffs long -- and they're not stopping now. 

We don't know when for sure Jarry will be back, so DeSmith is going to have to find a way to lessen the potential blow as best as possible. If the Penguins can win a game, or even both, before a potential Game 3 comeback, DeSmith will have done exactly what was needed of him. 

Florida vs. Washington

What impact will Aaron Ekblad have?

After more than a month away from the lineup, defenseman Aaron Ekblad is finally set to make his return with Florida in Game 1. 

That's a huge positive for the Panthers as Ekblad was having a near Norris-like season prior to his injury in mid-March with 15 goals and 57 points in 61 games – 16 points better than his previous best of 41 in 2019-20. 

The Panthers are getting him at the right time, but how much can they push Ekblad against a strong Capitals team in Game 1? Ekblad is a minute-muncher, averaging around 25 minutes a night after recovering from previous head and neck injuries. If Ekblad can stay healthy, he'll be an important piece of Florida's quest for its first-ever Stanley Cup.

Colorado vs. Nashville

What can the Preds do without Juuse Saros?

The Predators lost goaltender Juuse Saros at the absolute worst time possible with just a couple of days to go in the NHL regular season due to a left leg injury. 

Saros was having one of the best seasons of his career with a 38-25-3 record with four shutouts to become one of Nashville's most important players this season. Saros' exact return is unknown, so David Rittich – better known as 'Big Save Dave' – will carry the heavy lifting for the time being. 

Rittich was a starter in Calgary and even made the 2020 NHL all-star game, but his career has been on a downward spiral ever since. Nashville will need Rittich to steal a game or two against the high-flying Colorado Avalanche to put themselves in a good spot here.

Nashville has a good team, especially with Norris Trophy favorite Roman Josi leading the way. But it's asking a lot to stop an Avalanche team that look destined for a long playoff run.

Calgary vs. Dallas

Can Tyler Toffoli return to form?

Tyler Toffoli had a rough end to the season with Calgary, failing to record a point in the final games and just five points in 15 games in April. 

Toffoli is an important part of the Flames' offense with 49 points this season split between Montreal and Calgary, his best total since the 2015-16 season. Thankfully, he's coming off of a solid playoff run that saw him record 14 points in 22 games en route to a Stanley Cup final appearance with Montreal, and he emerged as a good secondary scoring option for Los Angeles in the team's 2014 championship season. 

The Flames are the favorites in this series, but Dallas is no slouch, so Calgary will need Toffoli to step up here.

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