Each Friday throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kevin Weekes will be bringing you his Friday Four. He will be blogging about four players, teams, plays, or trends that have caught his eye.
The New York Rangers have rediscovered their game on home ice, something that had been a bit of concern because they were so dominant on the road during the regular season and had a string of losing a number of Stanley Cup Playoff games at home. But after trailing the Ottawa Senators 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Second Round, they had a pair of convincing 4-1 wins at Madison Square Garden to even the series.
In Game 3, New York outshot Ottawa 15-5 in the first period, had more speed and intensity and was the hungrier team. That carried over into Game 4, when the fourth line had a huge impact. Oscar Lindberg scored twice, and Tanner Glass had two assists and was all over the ice.
All in all, Ottawa was the better team in the first two games and New York was the better team in the past two. Each held serve on home ice, and we'll see if the Senators can turn it around in Game 5 at Canadian Tire Centre.
Video: Lindberg scores twice as Rangers beat Sens in Game 4
I think you can make a case for the Nashville Predators being the most complete team in the playoffs. They are very committed to playing a three-zone game on both sides of the puck. Pekka Rinne has been great, starting with giving up three goals in four games to the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, and his superb play has carried over against the St. Louis Blues. Their defensemen have been doing a great job offensively. Ryan Ellis leads them with nine points (four goals, five assists) and has a seven-game point streak. Their core four on defense, which also includes Roman Josi, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm, have been really good. But even Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber, the third pair, have helped out. The Predators also have gotten contributions from depth forwards like Cody McLeod; it's not just Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson and James Neal.
For the Blues, goaltender Jake Allen has been spectacular. He's kept them in every game. The challenge for them is that they haven't always been able to match the speed and intensity of the Predators. They are going to have to play their best game Friday at home to keep the series alive.
Video: A preview of Game 5 between the Predators and Blues
You hate to see what happened to Sidney Crosby in Game 3, but the Pittsburgh Penguins responded the way I thought they would in Game 4. Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel continue to dominate in the playoffs and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't faltered yet since taking over for the injured Matt Murray. Fleury has been great to watch, and it's been a testament to his character and his mental toughness. Let's not forget about Justin Schultz on the blue line. The depth and speed of Pittsburgh is really hard for the Washington Capitals to match.
If the Capitals are going to come back in this series (they trail 3-1), they are going to have to be a more determined team from the faceoff circles on down in the offensive zone. They also have to take away the middle of the ice in the neutral and defensive zones. Matt Cullen, 40, outhustled Washington defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk for a breakaway. Jake Guentzel has had numerous 2-on-1s. Those are just plays that Washington can't allow to happen.
Lastly, their best players need to be their best players. The Penguins have had a next-man-up mentality that no matter the situation, guys step up and play well when others are out. If the Capitals want to erase the script of not winning the big games and advancing far in the playoffs, they have to win three games in a row -- and it won't be easy. It's in their heads. It's not like they don't have the personnel.
Video: Should the Penguins play Sidney Crosby up 3-1?
Ryan Getzlaf has been awesome in the playoffs for the Anaheim Ducks. He's been playing like a man possessed. Look at Getzlaf's performance in Game 4: He had two goals, two assists, played 25:56 and was excellent in the faceoff circle. The fact that they have Ryan Kesler now takes some of the pressure off of him. Kesler takes faceoffs and matches up against the top line of the Edmonton Oilers; he and his linemates have contained Connor McDavid's line.
The Oilers have to get back to playing a speed game. When they are playing too much in their own zone and Anaheim pins them in, that is to the Ducks' advantage. The Oilers have to use their speed more in Game 5 after seeing their 2-0 series lead turn into a 2-2 tie.
Video: Ducks draw even in Edmonton