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Pregame Skate: Capitals look to knock out defending champs

By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer
CAPITALSBRUINS3 ET, Boston at Washington: The two teams that played in the Stanley Cup Finals last season are facing elimination on Sunday, including the defending champion Boston Bruins. The Bruins travel to Washington just 24 hours after giving up a late third period goal to fall into a 3-2 series deficit, needing a win to force a Game 7.

If they're unable to push the series back to Boston, it will be the second year in a row the defending champions have gone out in the first round after Chicago was eliminated by Vancouver in the opening round last season. The biggest difference is Chicago had to sneak into the playoffs on the last day of the season and, as the eighth seed, had to face the Presidents' Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks. They were expected by many to lose. The Bruins, on the other hand, were considered to be the favorites in this series, and one of the top teams in the league.

Their explosive offense, which was one of the best in the NHL during the regular season, has been shut down by the Capitals defense and a surprising performance by rookie goaltender Braden Holtby. Holtby took over the starting job due to injuries to Michal Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun at the start of the playoffs. Through the first six games of the series Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Milan Lucic have combined for just one goal and three assists for Boston.

If there is any sort of silver lining for Boston it's that three of their four postseason series last year went to a seventh game. So there's that.

CANUCKSKINGS8 ET, Los Angeles at Vancouver: And then there is the Vancouver Canucks, facing elimination for the second game in a row as they return home to face the Los Angeles Kings for Game 5.

After winning the Presidents' Trophy for a second straight season, the Canucks were one of the most popular picks to win the Stanley Cup this season and were in a position where they needed to win four straight games just to get out of the first round. They finally got one, now there is three more to go.

During that three-game losing streak to open the series head coach Alain Vigneault made a goalie change by replacing Roberto Luongo with Cory Schneider. Schneider has played well since taking over, even though goaltending was never really the issue in the series to begin with. The issue was always finding a way to solve Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, something they were finally able to do in Game 4 when they scored three goals.

Daniel Sedin made his return to the lineup that night with an assist.

FLYERSPENGUINS12 ET, Pittsburgh at Philadelphia: After watching the first five games of this series, nobody can really be sure what to expect in Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon for Game 6.

As we saw on Friday night, even when we get something normal and routine in this series, even that is unexpected. Will the offense and firewagon hockey we saw during the first four games return? Can the Flyers close it out and move on? Will Marc-Andre Fleury play another strong game and help the Penguins push the series back to Pittsburgh for a Game 7?

It's been a wild series to this point, and there is reason to think we haven't seen everything it has to offer.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
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