While the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup qualifiers featured quite a few blowouts to our liking, it also delivered no fewer than three Game 7s, the ultimate “tension agreement.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Saturday will be the first time since April 30, 2014, that three 7 matches will be played on the same day, and will also be the first time in NHL history that two 7 matches hosted by Canadian teams will be on the same day.
To help you prepare for Boston Bruins and Carolina hurricanes (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), Tampa Bay Lightning Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET, TNT) and Los Angeles Kings-Edmonton Oilers (10 p.m. EDT, ESPN), we carve out a path to victory for each team, determine the X factors in all three competitions and make predictions for the end result.
4:30 PM ET | Watch the live broadcast on ESPN
Top scorers: Brad Marchand, Bruins (4g | 7a)
Tony D’Angelo, Hurricanes (1g | 7a)
Victory Road to Boston: The best news for the Bruins here is that they have nothing to lose. Carolina was the better team in the series overall. They were the top seed that would enter. However, Boston still had a chance to lead after them.
All the pressure falls on Carolina to perform in Game Seven. Simply put, the Bruins go out and play. This will be the superpower of the Bruins. They have the veteran experience of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. They have the talent of scoring goals like David Pasternak and Taylor Hall. They have strong goals from Jeremy Swayman, and a rear end led by the talent of Charlie McAvoy. To win Game 7, you have to be Boston. – Shelton
Victory Road to Carolina: This is why the regular season is so important. The Hurricanes return to Raleigh licking their wounds, but knowing that they completely dominated the Bruins on the ice at home in the series.
They outdid them 15-4, but more importantly they scored early and often. Carolina led 2-0, 3-0, 4-0 in their home win. They have taken fewer penalties in all three home matches. They are getting better at shooting the goal, as Ante Ranta has 974 saves in Rallye. They can get the matches they want against the two best Bruins streaks. Defender Jakob Slavin said: “Obviously you get the last change at home, which is an advantage. But you still have to come to play.” With the size and ferocity of their fans at home, they will come to play. – Wyshynski
Shelton X Factor: This can come down to the target. Carolina played the entire series without the apprentice Fredrik Andersen. Ranta has been fantastic in his absence, and Swayman has been equally good since taking over as coach of Linus Olmark. Swayman leads his win in Game 6, and that confidence can be passed down greatly to the Bruins.
Wyshynski X Factor: Font matching. Head coach Rod Brende Amore waved the white flag in Boston when it came to removing Sebastian Aho from Bruins Bergeron and Marchand. The Bruins made the last change, and Bergeron played most of his minutes against the Hurricanes top streak. In their previous three victories, Carolina sent Jordan Stahl’s line as a countermeasure against Bergeron and Marchand, while keeping Aho away from them. Do it again, and the Aho streak might be the difference in Game 7.
Anticipate the end result: Chilton: 3-2 Bruins
Wyshynski: 5-3 hurricanes
7 p.m. Eastern Time (TNT)
Top scorers: Nikita Kucherov, Lightning (2 G | 6 A)
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs (4g | 4a)
Victory Road to Tampa Bay: The Maple Leafs can talk all they want about being the best team in the series and their past playoff failures—they haven’t won a series playoffs since 2004—are buried in the past. But it’s Game 7. It’s the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s the first time that Lightning has had to plant these seeds of doubt in the minds of their opponents and see what twisted limbs grow out of them.
Tactically, Lightning should play a tighter defense against Andrei Vasilevskiy and cannot allow the Leafs to score multiple goals in quick succession as they have done in the last two games. The path to victory is clear. It’s been blazed before by Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn and Andrei Vasilevsky. The Lightning won Game 7 to qualify for the Stanley Cup Final last season. The Leafs are 0-8 in the Auston Matthews/Mitch Marner era when they have a chance to take out their opponents. – Wyshynski
Victory Road to Toronto The Leafs’ sad recent history of not being able to advance in the playoffs should be enough motivation to get the job done in Game 7. Toronto were the better team in Game Six. The loss in overtime was a hard pill to swallow given the number of opportunities available. They had. Vasilevskiy has been sexy at the grid, and Toronto will expect that to be the case again in Game 7. Lightning has definitely proven in the past couple of years that they know how to win on a big stage.
However, Toronto has overtaken Tampa more often than not in this series. The team’s core stars – Matthews, Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares – have been important contributors in the last two games. Jack Campbell scored a point in the goal. If the Leafs can simply maintain this status quo, and challenge Vasilevskiy a bit more with traffic up front, they have a great chance of progressing. – Shelton
Shelton X Factor: He is not so much a player as the ability to handle conditions. This series is defined by momentum swings – the big swings. With penalties called and not. Through opportunities seized and missed. Tampa has Stanley Cup pedigree here, but Toronto shouldn’t let that intimidate them. Campbell has a sub-0.900 conservation in this series (893)—and so does Vasilevskiy (.885). Almost everything has been matched so far. Game 7 will be decided in favor of the team that can keep calm and cool and collect the longest.
Wyshynski X Factor: Despite all the talk of Lightning’s impressive 17-0 record after post-season losses, the Maple Leafs will have to break a different, mind-boggling streak to advance to the next round (eight-game losing streak in matches that would have won their series.). Vasilevskiy has managed to lock in the last game of Tampa Bay’s last five wins, including two Stanley Cup wins. Let’s be real: He wasn’t great in the series, with a 0.85 save ratio behind a somewhat leaky defense. But when Lightning is ready to close, it has closed the door on many series in the past.
Expect the end result: Shelton: 4-2 Maple Leafs
Wyshynski: 4-3 (overtime) maple leaves
10 PM ET | Watch the live broadcast on ESPN
Top scorers: Adrian Quimby, Kings (2 J | 4 A)
Conor McDavid, Lubricants (3g | 9a)
The way to win in Los Angeles: “First goal win” is a cliché in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it’s undoubtedly applicable to the series. In the victories of the Three Kings, they achieved the first blows; In their three losses, they didn’t. Scoring first allows the Kings to prepare in their defensive position. The stuff that builds a safety net when Conor McDavid inevitably scores points for Edmonton.
But to win Game 7, they’ll need two things. First, to raise their rivalry to match the level of the Oilers, who were the top 5-5 team in Game 6. Also, they would need someone to be an offensive squad maker. Trevor Moore scored three points in their first game win. Carl Grundstrom scored three points in their Game 4 win. Adrian Kempe scored three points and the overtime winner in their Game 5 win. Who will be the champion this time around? – Wyshynski
Victory Road to Edmonton: Give the disc to Connor McDavid. Just kidding (sort of). Edmonton’s stars carried the day in the series, though, from McDavid (12 points) to Evander Kane (seven goals) to Leon Draisaitl (eight points). These big names should appear again, against a Kings who have great offensive depth and are able to lock down defensively.
Then there’s Jonathan Quick, who was equally impressive and wonky on the series. The Oilers like to generate rush opportunities, but making Quick uncomfortable with traffic and more commitment to the game of the bike can pay off early. Finishing any final game of any series is a marathon effort. Oilers have to treat Game 7 as such. – Shelton
Shelton X Factor: Philip Danault. How good was he with the Kings on that series, and the entire season, really? He has repeatedly frustrated the Oilers with a stifling defensive match. Danault does everything for Los Angeles, whether it’s winning critical encounters, scoring goals at the right time or successfully fighting for pucks. It’s the definition of a difference maker, with the ability to turn Game 7 in Los Angeles’ favor.
Wyshynski X Factor: Does Kwik have another vintage performance in it? The goalkeeper has battled the Kings in all of their victories, including his 4 out of 31 save performance that made the series. Although we don’t expect that kind of effort in this game, Quick is the definition of the X-factor. If he’s playing, he’ll be the difference.
Anticipate the end result: Shelton: 4-3 Kings
Wyshynski: 3-2 Kings