NHL playoffs Game 7 heaven: Rangers vs Penguins, Habs vs Bruins

  • New York travel to Pittsburgh for Tuesday's decider
  • Montreal go to Boston for Wednesday's series clincher

Two game seven match-ups will settle who plays in the eastern conference final by Thursday.

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins

Game 7: Tuesday, May 13 7pm ET

The Rangers, down 3-1 in this series going into the weekend, have rebounded in a big way, stolen two back from the Penguins and can now eliminate Pittsburgh on the road Tuesday night. The Rangers were last there Friday, facing elimination, when Derick Brassard showed up. The last time we heard from him, he was scoring the overtime winner in Game 1. He popped two more home Friday night, along with an assist. Here’s the second, the goal that capped off the Rangers’ 5-1 domination of the Penguins.

Rangers 5-1 Penguins

And then Sunday – Mother’s Day in North America – came around, and the only thing that had changed was the setting. Back home at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers again held the Penguins to just one goal, while managing three for themselves (and yes, Brassard grabbed yet another). Of course, what capped it most of all was the goal from Rangers captain Martin St Louis, just three days after he quickly returned home to Montreal to be with his mother when she passed away. It was an emotional moment.

An emotional moment for Martin St. Louis

So, what happened – to the Penguins, that is? For the bulk of the series up until Friday, the Penguins had been winning the mind game. Brassard’s goals Friday seemed to shake the Rangers from that daze, and allow them to believe (or remember) they can be as good, or better, than Pittsburgh. Those goals, along with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist having two incredible games between the pipes (he stopped 77 of 79 shots sent his way), gave the Rangers that confidence they’d been lacking ever since Game 1 ended.

Now it’s up to the Penguins to shake off New York’s momentum. Step one will be knocking Lundqvist off his game. Step two? Get that power play back on track. The Penguins went 0-for-4 with the man advantage Sunday, and were lucky that the Rangers’ power play woes have also continued. Step three? Beating history. The Rangers are getting used to Game 7 situations, and have gone 9-2 in their last 11 elimination games.

As a final note, because it seems to have been a trend this weekend (as you’ll see), Lundqvist’s water squirting at Sidney Crosby after the game made him $5,000.00 poorer. But as part of the mental battle, perhaps it was worth it?

Montreal Canadiens v Boston Bruins

Game 7: Wednesday, May 14 7.30pm ET

I might wager that as much as fans from either side of this matchup would prefer it had ended earlier with their squad winning with lots of time to rest, they’d also admit that a Game 7 is really the only reasonable way this series can end. It’s been a mixed bag, though, for both teams. Saturday’s Bruins were terrific; Monday’s were not. The reverse was true of the Canadiens.

The difference for Boston Saturday was the power play, which finally clicked. The Bruins grabbed two quick goals on back-to-back Montreal penalties to start the second period, and put the game out of reach for the Habs.

Of course, then there was that whole water incident in this game, too, as Shawn Thornton let fly a bit of aqua at PK Subban (it cost him $2,820.52 – less than Lundqvist as the fine is based on a day’s wage).

More water games

In any event, back in Montreal Monday night, the Habs were a changed team. Everyone who needed to start scoring, did, including Max Pacioretty, who’d been relatively quiet during this series. His goal came at a crucial moment, immediately after the Bruins had the Habs hemmed in their own end. Boston pinned Montreal back, keeping defencemen Mike Weaver and Josh Gorges on the ice for three minutes apiece.

Montreal also took advantage of the power play, as Tomas Vanek (again, another necessary scorer) grabbed one with the man advantage near the end of the second period to make it 3-0. They also got some lucky bounces. Yet another Boston puck beat Carey Price only to ricochet off the crossbar, and then still another danced along the goal line before David Desharnais executed whatever this was to keep it from crossing over:

Miracle save

What do you call that? Habs fans might say it’s a sign. Boston might call it an injustice in need of correction – something they’ll try to do Tuesday night on home ice.

Don’t forget Game 6s

Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild

Meanwhile, neither of the two Western conference series may have to go as long as seven games. Tuesday night, the Chicago Blackhawks will return once more to visit the Minnesota Wild at home and try to for an elimination win. Chicago beat the Wild 2-1 at home Sunday, but it wasn’t easy. Their first period (after which they trailed 1-0) was so bad, they were booed off the ice as the intermission began. But they turned it around, thanks to a power play goal from Mr Playoffs, Brian Bickell, at about the midpoint of the second period, before Captain Clutch, Jonathan Toews, put home the winner in the third. Here’s that, in case you missed it.

Chicago will be looking for more of that Wednesday. The Wild have twice scored four goals against Chicago this series, and in both those games they managed a lot of shots and capitalized early. They’ll need to do that again, as well as win more faceoffs than they did in Game 5. They were abysmal overall Sunday – Mikko Koivu won only 41% of his, while Kyle Brodziak and Erik Haula only won about a third of theirs.

Anaheim Ducks v LA Kings

The biggest question surrounding the Ducks this playoff season has been how they replaced their net with a revolving door. Convenient for goalies wishing to come and go, but not great – theoretically – for winning championships. But, as they did when they were founded, the Ducks flaunt convention. They started the series with Jonas Hiller (who was good, then awful), moved on to Erik Andersen (who was OK, then injured) and have now settled on 20-year-old rookie John Gibson, who has so far been, uh, all right. Gibson backstopped the Ducks to a 2-0 win Saturday night, and helped them hang on to a 4-3 win Monday. And I do mean hang on.

While the Ducks at times looked in control Monday night against the Kings, they almost blew a 4-1 lead, and allowed LA to climb back within striking distance, and claw back some momentum to finish the game. And another reason Gibson might bring the Ducks some confidence? LA threw 42 shots his way Monday night. In fact, though the Kings looked decidedly beatable Monday, they can take solace in their persistence (if the game had gone much longer it did appear they would tie it), and that they held the Ducks to just two lonely shots in the third period. More of that, more of that Kopitar line (which came alive in the latter half of Monday’s game), along with more confidence for Jonathan Quick, and they’ll force a Game 7.

NHL playoffs scores and schedule


Colin Horgan

The GuardianTramp

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