There is nothing better than a game 7 in the National Hockey League playoffs. It doesn't matter who's playing. I could barely wait until 5pm MTN yesterday for the Habs/Bruins to start and then listening to that crowd and U2 belting out in the background... how could you not be pumped. I'll start with some tidbits from the other series before I touch on the game 7's.
Detroit vs. Nashville... I wrote in one of my earlier blogs, when the Wings were up 2-0, that they would lose the series if Hasek continued to be their starter. I referred to him as their "achilles heel." Well, he showed everyone that he was exactly that. And although I don't think he's finished yet, he certainly can't be counted on to start every single game. Big ups to the Preds who hung around longer than anyone thought they would. Dan Ellis has been solid all year long and had yet to have THAT game, the one where he lets in 3 quick ones and has to get pulled like we saw several times this season. He's the reason they made it as far as they did. And I don't care what you say... you can't let in a goal from the other blue line. I don't care how it bounces. But at least it wasn't as bad as Toskala.
Pittsburgh vs. Ottawa... I don't think this even deserves more than a sentence. It happened exactly how everyone except Sens fans thought it would. MA Fleury is going to get a chance to prove himself, which I think will still end badly for Pittsburgh, but he showed he still has the potential. As for the Sens, injuries hurt them, but where was Dany Heatley? And when will Spezza learn he has wingers? But Daniel Alfredsson was a MAN. Can't believe he played on that knee.
Minnesota vs. Colorado... Should have went with my gut rather than picking the Wild just because. They were exactly what they were all year long and showed the reason that the Avs and Flames battled for the 6 hole and a chance to NOT play San Jose. Joe Sakic is a freak, did you see him control game 6 at the end. With him on the ice, the Wild had no chance.
New York vs. New Jersey... Season series, 7-1 NYR. Playoff series 4-1 NYR. The post-season is a brand new season for sure. But you have to make it that way. The Devils showed them nothing new and played like they were hoping not to lose. Why have the Rangers not locked up Sean Avery yet?
Anaheim vs. Dallas... the cup-run hang over. It happens all the time. It's hard to play a 10-month all-out season and then come back and do it again; mix in a trip to London for half of training camp and it gets worse. This is a good team, but I can't help but think it's a little Karma for the way Burke/Selanne/Neidermayer handled their season, which I think was atrocious and I hope the NHL can keep fining the heck out of these guys to try and get them not to do it. Don't think my thoughts are any different on Forsberg and will be one of the reasons that I will refuse to wish them well in the post-season.
Montreal vs. Boston... the dream scenario for Boston fans and it was even enough to bring casual fans back to hope for their Bruins. If you haven't had a chance to read Bill Simmons most recent entry on page 2, espn.com, get over and check it out. I knew Boston could win game 7. I knew Montreal should win game 7. But they also should have won game 6. They had been rolling over to the Bruins hard-checking style, finally in game 7 they established their game again. But really, when is the last time you saw a rookie more ready to play in the post-season than Milan Lucic? I watched him in Vancouver several times over his last season with the WHL's Vancouver Giants. He dominated those players as he was like a man playing with boys. But to see him display that same dimeanor in the NHL playoffs... I can't believe it. What a snag for Bruins fans and I have a feeling he's going to be a playoff performer for the rest of his career.
1st Game 7... Caps and Flyers. This was one of my 7 game predictions, I had the Flyers winning. And although they don't have the momentum going in, they can win the game. But they need to go hard at the Caps, roll their lines and wear them down. Boudreau already made a huge adjustment in this series that has made the Caps viable again and has given them 2 scoring lines which they needed so badly. This is going to be a good game to watch, no doubt about it, but not nearly as good as the most vicious battle this playoffs has seen in....
The Sharks and Flames. I couldn't have been happier to be at game 6 and watch the Flames play a game the way i've been pleading with them to play since game 7 against Anaheim, the turning point in the Flames for the last 2 seasons and something we haven't recovered from. They played a complete and dominant game, they limited mistakes and attacked the opposition even after getting the lead. Huselius played great. This is the team that I want to see. The sad part still is that even if we have another game just like that, it won't even gaurantee a Flames win, why? Because the Sharks are that good and Nabokov is still capable of stealing games.
The wild card for me will be lineups again. I don't like Vandermeer on the wing. He should be playing defense and Anders Eriksson should be sitting and watching. He never played that bad but he will make that crucial mistake every game. Game 6 saw him pinch on a play that D-men should never pinch on, which led to a 3 on 1 the other way when the game was only 1-0. It could have completely changed that game. Luckily for the Flames, the man with the puck was none other than Michalek, who, let's face it, couldn't score if that net was empty because he's slumping so bad. So Eriksson gets let off the hook like he has so many times this year. I just don't think we can survive a game 7 with him in the lineup.
For the Sharks, obviously Setoguchi will be in again. He never should have been on the bench at all, and I don't want to hear from Sharks fans that it's because of your depth that he wasn't playing. I don't care. He was awesome against the Flames all year long and has been your 4th best player in this series now behind Clowe, Nabokov and Marleau, probably behind Thornton too. JR needs to be playing as you notice a big difference when he's not in there as well. Rissmiller should be on the bench as he looks totally out of place.
It's going to be a great game tonight. I feel the momentum on the side of the Flames but I don't discount the Sharks at all. Past history doesn't matter when it's a one game series, which brings me to my final point...
Whoever the heck researched and came up with the Habs 3-1 series statistics of being 26-0 when having led 3-1 and vice versa for the Bruins being 0-20 when trailing... someone bring them to me so I can line them up and kick them right in the groin. Because if Guy Lafleur and Larry Robinson had anything to do with the Habs winning game 7 last night I'll let someone else groin ME. Those stats are so ridiculous and have absolutely no barring on the outcome of a game 7. It's one game, whoever prepares and executes the best will win, regardless of what happened in the 1970s.