The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals have played an intense Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series up until this point. However, until one of these two clubs breaks serve on the other's ice, it's going to remain a little predictable. That's especially since all five games have followed a pattern at both rinks. High-scoring, defensive-mistake-prone games at Madison Square Garden; tight-checking, nerve-wracking, close games at Verizon Center.
The Capitals need the cycle to break if they want to win this series Sunday evening/afternoon (a weird 4:30 p.m. ET start time makes it difficult to call it either) because these games have produced a "homer" series so far. No road team has won a game. While that has given the Capitals a 3-2 series lead, it would be comforting if they could take a game on the road to move on, rather than have to worry about a third consecutive Game 7 after two series went that way last year.
This has been a series owned by the supporting players, as the big guns on both sides (Alexander Ovechkin and Rick Nash) have been held to one goal between them — and that was in Game 1. It's made for compelling stuff, however, as it's given the media a "when will _____ show up?" narrative.
Game 6 is a must-win for the Rangers, as being eliminated on home ice would be an embarrassing way to end what has largely been a disappointing season. Picked as Stanley Cup favorites out of the Eastern Conference by quite a few people, the Rangers snuck in to the playoffs, drew the Capitals again, and -- unless they beat them two straight times in 24 hours -- are in danger of losing their third first-round series to Washington in five years, despite winning last season's second-round series.
Will the trend of higher scoring games at Madison Square Garden in this series continue?
14 goals were scored in the two games at the big cylinder in Manhattan earlier in the week. In three games at Verizon Center, the teams have combined for eight goals and two overtimes. Though the games have remained close, things have opened up a bit at The World's Most Famous Arena. With one team's season on the line, will things tighten up? Or will we see more defensive/goaltending mistakes like we saw in Games 3 and 4?
Can Braden Holtby outplay Henrik Lundqvist once on the road?
You could argue Holtby's defense let him down in Games 3 and 4, but Henrik Lundqvist was also a bit better. While Holtby's been the better keeper on home ice, he's yet to beat Lundqvist on the road, and is 1-5 at Madison Square Garden in the playoffs overall. The young goaltender has been remarkable at Verizon Center, but four goals against just won't do again if the Capitals want to avoid playing Game 7 just 24 hours after the end of Game 6.
Will Rick Nash show up on the scoresheet before it's too late?
Rick Nash has by no means been a bad player in this series. He's been fine in his own end and helped create some chances. It's just that his name hasn't shown up on the scoresheet but for one assist. The Rangers need Nash to come up big and pot a goal or three between now and tomorrow night if they want to win this series. They can't piece together more than two goals on a consistent basis without him, and that is not the formula to winning a best-of-seven.
Game Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
National TV: CNBC, TSN
Washington TV: CSN Washington
New York TV: MSG