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Published April 22, 2017
Mike Babcock didn't say goodbye to Verizon Center. He said see you soon.
The highest paid coach in the NHL has a Stanley Cup ring and has been around the block a few times. He knows his Toronto Maple Leafs aren't out of their first-round series against the Washington Capitals despite being down 3-2 going into Game 6 back at home on Sunday.
"These games are good," Babcock said after an OT loss in Game 5 Friday night. "It's a good, competitive series. We believe we still have a chance to win. That's what we're going to do."
Despite being a matchup of the playoff-tested Presidents' Trophy winner with 118 points and the inexperienced eighth seed with 95, Washington and Toronto are separated by only one goal through five games — four of which went into overtime — and are tied at 175 shots apiece. Capitals coach Barry Trotz said the closeness of the series is a credit to the parity in the NHL and Toronto's young stars like Auston Matthews and William Nylander.
The difference so far has been the power play, where the Capitals are 5 for 15 and the Maple Leafs are 3 for 17.
"If you can keep your special teams going through the playoffs, it is a big factor in a series," Trotz said on a conference call Saturday. "It can be because of the fact that the 5-on-5 play becomes so tight at times that that can be a deciding factor."
Justin Williams, the overtime hero Friday, anticipated a seven-game series but now hopes that's not needed. In a coin-flip series where one bounce could decide a potential Game 7, the Capitals want to close out the pesky Maple Leafs in six.
"You get an opportunity to push someone off a cliff, you need to push them off if you can," Trotz said. "The difference is we've got a little bit of wiggle room. They don't."
Here are some things to watch for Sunday:
Senators at Bruins, Ottawa leads 3-2 (3 p.m. ET, NBC)
Bruins rookie Sean Kuraly's goal in double overtime Friday sends the series back to Boston for Game 6. The Bruins are trying to overcome a 3-1 series deficit for the first time in franchise history.
Ottawa blew a two-goal lead in Game 5, continuing a leaguewide trend. The Senators and Bruins also played the 15th overtime game of the first round, and given the tightness of this series, more free hockey could be in the offing.
"We knew it wasn't going to come easy, it hasn't come easy for us," Boston forward David Backes said.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said center David Krejci, who left Game 5 with a lower-body injury after a knee-on-knee hit from Chris Wideman, was getting treatment and is considered day to day. Defenseman Torey Krug is skating, but he still seems a ways away from rejoining the lineup.
With Krug, Brandon Carlo and Adam McQuaid out, rookie Charlie McAvoy played 31:14 Friday, and Joe Morrow 29:54.
Capitals at Maple Leafs, Washington leads 3-2 (7 p.m., NBCSN)
Trotz said Alex Ovechkin is fine and good to go for Game 6 after what looked like a left leg injury in the first period of Game 5 on a hip check from Nazem Kadri. Ovechkin left the ice without putting weight on the leg but returned for the second period and said he felt no pain and was "all good."
Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner, who has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury, is "progressing" but still day to day, according to Trotz. Because 12th forward Brett Connolly played just 6:12 in Game 5 and 4:26 in Game 4, Trotz said he'd consider dressing seven defensemen once Alzner is ready to return.
Game 4 star Tom Wilson won't be in the press box but he was stapled to the bench for the end of Game 5 because he took four minor penalties. Trotz said that can't happen, benching him but vowing to get Wilson's head straight moving forward.
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