On a night that saw Toronto fail to get a chance to finish a first-round match, the Boston Bruins forced out Game 7. It sounds like a bad omen for Blue and White, but luckily for the Maple Leafs’ savior, the resilient B team. The comeback came not against the Canadian club, but against Canis.
For the sixth game in a row, the Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes came together for a shell, Boston’s victory on Thursday night marking the fifth time in these six games that the winning team has put five points.
Another constant throughout the series so far: the ongoing battle between Brad Marchand (Boston in general) and Tony D’Angelo.
In the first minute of the second half of Match 6, Marchand outplayed the Canes defender again, and DeAngelo opened a path with a poorly timed change, and Bruins took advantage of it with a decisive goal from Marchand. This was the first time in the series that the B’s were able to hit the first target in the game. Carolina couldn’t recover, the Bruins didn’t concede their lead from there and eventually completed the night with a 5-2 win.
Who else will be for Boston?
Marchand’s goal in Game 6 was his 10th in a game in which the Bruins faced elimination, and is now a franchise record for the Originals Six. Simply put, no other Bruin has been like a clutch when the team’s season is on the line. It was also the 49th playoff goal of his career, putting him on par with long-time teammate Patrice Bergeron to finish second in team history, narrowly behind leader Cam Neely.
It’s a missed opportunity for Rod Bringmore. But looking at how the pendulum has swung in this series so far, the Canes seem to have a good enough chance of shutting it down – during each of their first six games, the home team won each time. Match 7 starts on Saturday in Raleigh.
The St. Louis Blues move into the second round, and the Minnesota Wild go home early.
Coming into the series, perhaps Wild seems to have the advantage, finishing the club with a better record in the regular season, and hosting the best player in a first-round match: Kirill Kaprizov, who finished the year in fifth – most goals (47) and points (108) in the league.
But these blues entered spring with a team look that could have made more noise than most were attached to, bringing a mix of veteran chops that helped them lift silver a few years ago and a new identity centered on a high-octane attack.
These are not the blues we used to know. In 2019, when they reached the top of the cup, St. Louis entered the post-season with the second fewest goals per league game. This time they entered third place. This was postponed in the playoffs, as the Blues finished their first streak with the fifth most goals per match of the 16 teams they have wrestled so far.
Full credit goes to GM Doug Armstrong for figuring out exactly what his team needs before the end of the season, too.
Looking to support the left side of his blue streak, Armstrong exited and added veteran defender Nick Lady in a five-piece deal in March. On Thursday night, in the most important game of their season so far, that motion was made when Lyde picked up the disc in his area late in the first half, floated on the ice softly, and fired one from the top left. Circle to break the deadlock, giving St. Louis an early lead 1-0.
All the time, the Blues are 22-8 when they score first in a series decision game. They added to that total Thursday night, as they continued to roll Wild 5-1.
The Big Boys of the Blues have played a crucial role throughout this series as well. With five goals each during a first-round match, Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko and David Peron became the first trio of teammates to score five goals in a single series since 1991, when the Montreal Canadiens had three players to hit the feat.
But the road ahead is more difficult now, with the arrival of the well-rested Colorado Avalanche.
McAvoy, Lindholm made their mark
It was a rowdy streak for Bruins’ defense pair, Charlie McAvoy and Humbus Lindholm.
Between some performances up and down, a brutal scrutiny that knocked Lindolm out of the series early, and a bout with COVID-19 protocols that also removed McAvoy for a while, was a whirlwind of coach Bruce Cassidy’s blue streak.
But on Thursday evening, everything seemed to be lining up when the team needed it most.
Having managed to come back, Lindholm looked stellar with the Black and Gold, playing over 24 minutes and adding some poise to the club’s strong play, which scored early to help cement B’s lead in the second half. Count it as another important deadline that will show up in a big way in these playoffs.
“He was a fantastic player for us,” Boston’s Charlie Coyle said of Lindholm after the game. “How poised he is with the disc, the way he can defend. Go, get into their area and go that way, and do those plays. He does some plays where you’re on the bench and you don’t even see it. He sees him while he’s putting a little disc on his cane and his bodies in front of him.” It makes it look easy.”
McAvoy, too, was flying.
After returning to the lineup for the last game, only to see his club roll and put himself on the ropes, Number 73 was on the ice in this game, throwing his weight (including a Controversial hit on Sebastian Aho of Carolina) and make a great show on the eventual winner of the match:
7s game for everyone
The 2021 post-season period saw two first-round series reach the seven-game mark. This year’s playoffs have already outgrown that, with Tampa Bay, Boston and Edmonton all dictating their 7s Thursday night.
And we are not finished yet. With the Flames-Stars, Panthers-Capitals and Penguins-Rangers all currently in 3-2, we could still see three more potential Game 7 matches on our way before this first round is mentioned and done.
If Dallas, Washington and New York can pull off the kind of theatrical performances teams put on Thursday night, the 2022 playoffs could match an NHL record for pass-or-die tilts: The most seven games seen in a single playoff round was six, once again In 1992 – that was also the last time any round saw five more Game 7 matches.
If one of these next three teams force a Game of 7, we’re still looking at one of the most exciting rounds in over a decade, with the 2011 qualifiers being the last to feature four Game 7 encounters.