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Stanley Cup Playoff Storylines: May 7, 2022

Three teams will take a series lead after tonight, while one is hoping to just avoid going down 3-0. Here's what you need to know ahead of today's Stanley Cup playoff matchups.

Three teams will take a series lead after tonight, while one is hoping to just avoid going down 3-0. Here's what you need to know ahead of today's Stanley Cup playoff matchups.

Florida Panthers vs. Washington Capitals

Will goaltending sink the Caps again?

Unsurprisingly, the most problematic position in the Capitals lineup has been a problem when it mattered most. Who could have seen that coming?

Vitek Vanecek was pulled from Game 2 after allowing five goals on 18 shots, including one from a poor angle by Mason Marchment to make it 3-1 for Florida. 

Washington's defense was a mess, to be fair, but the inability to get adequate goaltending in tight games has plagued the Capitals all season long. The Capitals also can't afford to flip-flop goaltenders all series long and expect to win, especially when Florida's backup – Spencer Knight – would likely be Washington's No. 1.

No matter who's in net on Saturday, the Capitals need much better goaltending than they've been getting already in this series before it's too late.

Colorado Avalanche vs. Nashville Predators

Can the hometown crowd spark some life for Nashville?

The Predators were so close to forcing a 1-1 tie in the series heading back home, which, by all accounts, would have been a huge win. Unfortunately for the Preds, Cale Makar exists.

Game 2 was much better for Nashville, but they find themselves down 2-0 heading back to Smashville. Could the loud crowd at Bridgestone Arena prove to be an advantage for Nashville? They know how important winning Game 3 will be, and any cracks in the armor could mean a premature season exit come Monday night.

The Predators need to give it everything they got. Goaltending killed them in Game 1, but nearly saved them in Game 2. Goaltending will continue to remain an X-Factor, but it's not going to matter if the big guns don't get more pucks on the net and find a way to beat Darcy Kuemper on a more regular basis.

Regardless, you know Saturday is going to be an absolute party in Smashville. 

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins need help, and quick

Given the Penguins were one of the most injured teams all year long, it's no surprise it's hurting them again now.

Goaltender Casey DeSmith is out for the playoffs. Tristan Jarry, the team's starter, is still day-to-day. Rickard Rakell and Jason Zucker – two key pieces of the offense – are also out day-to-day. Throw in Brian Dumoulin's DtD injury and the group is battered before even hitting the halfway point in the series.

That's partly what makes the Game 1 victory so important. As it stands, the team will continue to rely on Louis Domingue, the team's third-string goaltender, to keep getting the job done. The defense, as ugly as it looked in Game 2, will need to come together, and quickly. Pittsburgh needs more offense outside of the top line, but it's easier said than done with Igor Shesterkin at the other end of the ice.

Pittsburgh needs to keep soldiering on, and, if they can escape without being down too much, they might be able to close this series close to full strength. That would be mega.

Calgary Flames vs. Dallas Stars

Flames need top stars to focus, deliver

Matthew Tkachuk's focus in this series seems to be more on carving John Klingberg's head in than scoring goals. But it's not just him: Elias Lindholm has the only goal through two games, with nothing to show for from Johnny Gaudreau, Andrew Mangiapane or Tyler Toffoli, either. 

Calgary's defense has been excellent, and the team can clearly count on Jacob Markstrom to get the job done. The problem? Dallas' defense is just as good and Jake Oettinger has been superb, too. Calgary's real edge is in its offensive talent, but they haven't shown up yet. 

They need to if they're going to steal wins in Texas over the next few days.

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