Who or what will be the X factor for Boston Bruins-Toronto Maple Leafs Game 6?
Greg Wyshynski, senior NHL writer: Tuukka Rask. The Bruins were ordinary in front of their goaltender in Game 5, but Rask didn't exactly help himself in giving up four goals on 13 shots in the Maple Leafs' 4-3 win. "He holds himself accountable, and it wasn't just on him," said winger Brad Marchand after the loss. "We could have been better in front of him ourselves, and collectively as a group we need to be better." So what we're looking for in Game 6: Boston providing more support for its netminder after he was pulled in the previous game, and for Rask to respond with the kind of effort he displayed after he surrendered four goals in a 4-2 Game 3 loss -- which was his 31-save performance in Boston's 3-1 Game 4 win in Toronto.
Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter: Nazem Kadri. The 27-year-old played less than 14 minutes in his return from a three-game suspension but had a big impact in Game 5. Centering the Leafs' fourth line, he set up a gorgeous Andreas Johnsson goal, registered four hits and won 71 percent of his faceoffs. He'll likely get promoted back to his second-line slot as Toronto coach Mike Babcock can control assignments with the last change at home. Kadri should be tasked with clamping down on Patrice Bergeron's line -- and, if he's successful, the Maple Leafs have the chance for another upset.
Chris Peters, NHL prospects columnist: If the Maple Leafs are going to even the series, goalie Frederik Andersen has to be at his absolute best. He has made 40-plus saves in each of Toronto's two wins against Boston and looked particularly sharp in Game 5. The challenge is stringing a couple of performances like that together. The Maple Leafs did not routinely give up such a high number of shots over the course of the season, as Andersen saw 40 or more in only 11 of his 66 regular-season appearances. Yet it has happened in three of the five games in this series so far, so he's been busy -- and is going to stay busy. The Maple Leafs have the firepower up front to score. Andersen just has to give them a chance.
Who or what will be the X factor for Washington Capitals-Columbus Blue Jackets?
Wyshynski: The Blue Jackets' special teams. Columbus began the series with four power-play goals in the first two games of this series. Since then, it has gone 0-for-12 in its past three games -- which, not at all coincidentally, were all losses to the Capitals. The power play is critical, if only for the fact that the Jackets' penalty kill can't be trusted to slow down the Washington power play, which has scored in every game of this series and is 8-for-24 against Columbus (33.3 percent) overall.
Kaplan: Braden Holtby. The 2015-16 Vezina winner wasn't his usual self from Jan. 1 until the end of the regular season (during which the Capitals goalie had an ugly 3.46 GAA, .894 save percentage). But Washington coach Barry Trotz knows that the 28-year-old is a trusted asset in the playoffs. Holtby has stopped 102 of 109 shots since debuting in this series in the third period of Game 2 (with a 1.66 GAA and .936 save percentage so far). He is the guy who can single-handedly steal a game for the Capitals.
Peters: After compiling seven points in the first three games of the series, Artemi Panarin was held off the score sheet in each of the past two. While he put up his career-best 82 points during the regular season, it was pretty rare for Panarin to go more than two games without scoring. In fact, he hasn't had a scoreless drought of more than two games since the beginning of January. Panarin is always a threat, and, after being a little too quiet these past few games, I'd expect him to be a major factor with the Blue Jackets' playoff lives on the line.