Around The NHL: Game 7s Galore, Elimination Game Andrei, Rangers Reeling, More
A whole lot going on in the NHL this week, as the first round starts to wind down. It’s been a wildly fun opening round that’s seen some rallies, some collapses, some insane goals, and everything in between. If we’re being honest, I’m going to need Patrick Kane to put the Rangers on his back tonight. We’ll get into it in a bit, but the Rangers have dropped three straight after taking the first two games of the series on the road. Need to see Showtime tonight at The Garden.
Elsewhere in the NHL, the Canes closed out the pesky Islanders, the Stars finished off the Wild in six games, and Vegas took care of business in five over the Jets. Let’s talk about this weekend’s hockey.
Game 7s Galore
We have three Game 6s tonight around the NHL and a pair of Game 7s tomorrow night. Hopefully, tonight leads us to a few more Game 7s next week. The most surprising of all of them has to be the Panthers winning a WILD game on home ice last night to force Game 7 with the best regular season team of all time, Boston.
The Panthers stunned the Bruins in Game 5 in Boston with a 4-3 OT win despite being outshot 47-26. Impending Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark made a brutal giveaway in overtime that led to Matthew Tkachuk’s game-winner. Then in Game 7, Ullmark had himself a rough game again letting in 6 goals. Game 7 tomorrow is going to be MUST WATCH. All the pressure in the world on Boston. Florida is playing freely, and Matthew Tkachuk might have become my favorite player in hockey to watch.
The other Game 7 tomorrow is the defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche hosting the Seattle Kraken. This has been a really fun series, and Seattle had the Avs on the ropes. Game 6 in Seattle with a chance to close out Colorado seems like a missed opportunity. Closing out the Avs in Game 7 will be a tall task for the young Kraken.
Here We Go Again?
It seemed different, and hey it still might be. After the Leafs erased a 4-1 deficit in Tampa to take their second in a row on the road and a 3-1 series lead, it had to be, right? But the Leafs did Leafs things in Game 5, they lost 4-2 on home ice and gave the 3x-defending Eastern Conference Champion Lightning life headed back home for Game 6. This Leafs team felt different, and it still might be. Ryan O’Reilly has been a perfect addition and provided that playoff player Toronto needed. He’s been great in this series, too. But after that Game 5 loss, doubt HAS to be creeping back into the Leafs’ heads. I’m fascinated to see what happens tonight.
One thing that might worry Toronto – Andrei Vasilevskiy seemed to snap out of his “slump” in Game 5. He was facing a ton of outside criticism after struggling early this series, despite being the Lightning’s best player during their dynastic run the last three seasons. If Vasilevskiy is back to his old self, watch out. Similar to the Grizzlies poking the bear with LeBron, those taking shots at Vasilevskiy might have woken him up.
Since the start of the 2019-20 playoffs, Vasilevskiy is 5-1 with a .944 SV% when the Lightning face elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs. Last season against Toronto in Games 6 & 7, he stopped 60 of 64 shots faced. Don’t count out Elimination Game Andrei.
Everything seemed fine on Broadway prior to Game 3. The Rangers had just dominated the Devils in Games 1 & 2 in New Jersey. They outscored the Devils 10-2 in the opening two games. Their stars were playing well. Kane & Tarasenko were producing. Shesterkin was stopping everything. Then the Devils came into The Garden, Jack Hughes tied Game 3 at 1-1 midway through the second period of that game, and the Devils never looked back. Since falling down 1-0 in Game 3, the Devils have outscored the Rangers 9-1 and have taken a 3-2 series lead. Since taking over as the starting goalie in Game 3, Akira Schmid has stopped 80 of 82 shots faced. It’s been a WILD flip of the script in this series.
As good as the Devils have been, I won’t count out Patrick Kane with his back against the wall. Can’t wait for this matchup tonight. Side note, this is one of my favorite uniform matchups in hockey. The Rangers’ home blues against the Devils’ road whites just looks so nice.
- Ottawa could have new ownership soon. It’s been rumored for a while now, but it appears a group headed by actor and Wrexham Football Club owner Ryan Reynolds could be nearing a purchase of the Senators to become the newest NHL owner.
- The Jets were eliminated by Vegas on Thursday night in Game 5 of that series. Jets’ head coach Rick Bowness was NOT happy with his team and let everyone know about it. He essentially ripped the teams “fight” and “push back” after falling behind. Then after those comments, Jets veteran Blake Wheeler said he didn’t appreciate his coach’s comments. Winnipeg has been stuck in neutral for years now as a team that can’t get by the first or second round. With some roster decisions to make this offseason, a shakeup might not be out of the question.
- Valeri Nichushkin mysteriously remains away from the Colorado Avalanche, though more details appear to be emerging. Seattle police reported at a “severely intoxicated” woman had to be taken to the hospital after being found in Nichushkin’s room last weekend. Avalanche team physician Dr. Bradley Changstrom was one of several team employees that found this woman while checking on Nichushkin. Changstrom also told police the woman struck Nichushkin, but he wasn’t pressing charges. Nichushkin remains away from the team, though the Avalanche insist it’s not due to a legal matter. Obviously, this is a very sensitive case with a lot of unknown details still out there.