Is there anything in sports more exciting than a winner-take-all deciding game?! I think the answer for most of us would be a no! An NHL Playoff Game Seven is what we live for. It’s what makes this time of year so captivating and special for the entire hockey community.
And the Eastern Conference has supplied a grand total of three Game Seven deciders for us in the opening round. It all kicks off with the defending Stanley Cup Champions hosting the Washington Capitals.
Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins:
This has been a great series. Every game has been decided by just one goal – with 3 games going to overtime – and one of those being a double OT. The Capitals have had an up and down season for sure – but have brought discipline and timely goal-scoring to this series. They have not been intimidated by the defending champs, and Braden Holtby has played like a veteran star. The rookie goalie has had poise throughout, and at times appeared to be getting inside the Bruins’ heads. Boston has looked great at points of the series, but average at times as well. Tim Thomas has been up and down and that has probably dictated some of the Bruins flow. One thing is for sure – if Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic can make a difference in Game Seven, then the B’s should win this one. But if Holtby and Alex Ovechkin can bring their ‘A’ games to Beantown, then the Caps will be no push over.
My Prediction: Bruins
Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers:
This series has had it all! For a #1 seed versus a #8 seed – it has passed all expectations. Ottawa has never once looked outmatched or at all out of place against the top club in the Eastern Conference. New York has certainly not played bad – the Sens have just played great. There’s been suspensions and injuries (Daniel Alfredsson, Brian Boyle both suffered concussions), but the key as it always is in the playoffs, has been goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist is a shoe-in for the Vezina as the NHL’s top goalie, and he has been strong in this series. For the under-dog Sens, Craig Anderson has been very good – including a stellar 41-save shutout of the Rangers in Game Five. The Ottawa lads may regret not closing out New York in Game Six in Canada, but anything goes in a Game Seven! This one comes down to the two goalies mentioned – whoever can play to the top of their abilities will push their team to the next round.
My Prediction: Rangers
New Jersey Devils at Florida Panthers:
A lot of credit has to be given to the Panthers as an organization. No one really believed that they could be a playoff team, and even fewer considered them a threat once in the playoffs. This is a team that seemingly has changed the culture of consistently losing – and now looks like a pretty capable and confident bunch. For the Devils, it looks like Martin Brodeur’s future may be uncertain, but he has shown flashes of the old brilliance from time-to-time in this series. I think the key here is experience and depth – two things that certainly favour the Devils. That being said – if Kris Versteeg and Stephen Weiss can continue to get timely goals for Florida, then we could see what many of us thought impossible – the Panthers in the second round!
My Prediction: Devils
Well the First Round of the Playoffs will end in what looks like dramatic fashion! What a great time of year for NHL fans, and the game itself. I hope that you’re enjoying the postseason wherever you are – and that your team is still alive!
You can follow Murph on Twitter throughout the NHL playoffs @MurphOnIce