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Five fast facts as conference finals continue

NHL.com @NHL
We're at that point where the matchup for the Stanley Cup Final could be determined in the next 48 hours -- or we might be waiting until the weekend, depending on how much fight the San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning have left in them.

The Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins find themselves in the driver's seat at the moment, but if the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs have taught us anything, it's that the fourth win really is the most difficult to achieve.

While we wait to see if the Canucks and Bruins can finish things off, here are five fast facts compiled over the previous week of conference finals action:

* Lightning goalie Mike Smith turned 29 in March. On Monday, the fifth-year veteran made his first postseason start in a 2-1 loss to the Bruins in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It had been 12 years to the day since a goaltender 29 or older made his starting playoff debut in the conference finals, and ironically it was the man Smith replaced in net -- Dwayne Roloson. On May 23, 1999, Roloson was in net for Game 1 as the Buffalo Sabres claimed a 5-4 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Roloson got the call when Dominik Hasek was sidelined with a groin injury and stopped 28 shots.


* It had been more than two decades since a Bruins rookie struck for at least a half-dozen goals in a playoff year, but Brad Marchand changed that when he notched the Game 5 winner. Interestingly, the 1988 Boston team that lost to Edmonton in the Final boasted four different rookies with at least 6 goals: Bob Joyce (8), Craig Janney (6), Bob Sweeney (6) and Glen Wesley (6).

* Blowing a three-goal lead in the playoffs never is a good recipe for success, but if you're the Bruins and you've allowed that surplus to slip away, the last thing you want to see is Simon Gagne skating down the ice at your goalie. Gagne had the decisive goal in Game 4 as the Lightning overcame a 3-0 deficit for a 5-3 victory. The last time Boston lost a playoff game it had led by three goals was Game 7 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals against Philadelphia. Gagne had the series-clinching goal in that game.

* Part of what made the Canucks the Presidents' Trophy winner in 2010-11 was the ability of their defensemen to contribute offensively. That's continued through the playoffs, particularly in the Western Conference Finals. Of Vancouver's 17 goals through the first four games, seven of them came from blueliners, including a pair of Sami Salo power-play goals 16 seconds apart in Game 4 Sunday. Six different defensemen have accounted for 13 goals (Kevin Bieksa 4, Salo 3, Christian Ehrhoff 2, Alexander Edler 2, Dan Hamhuis 1, Aaron Rome 1).

* It's safe to say the Sharks won't stage a rally without significant contributions from Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski. During the regular season, Pavelski had 20 goals and 66 points, Heatley contributed 26 goals and 64 points, and Setoguchi totaled 22 goals and 41 points. That's three 20-goal scorers who have yet to light the lamp in this series -- heading into Tuesday's must-win Game 5, the trio had been limited to a single assist each.
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