While the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs included a few too many blowouts for our liking, it also delivered at least three Game 7s, the ultimate “tension convention.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Saturday will see three Game 7s played on the same day for the first time since April 30, 2014, and it will also mark the first time in NHL history that two Game 7s will be played on the same day by Canadians teams hosted.
To prepare you for the Boston Bruins-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. ET, ESPN) we break down the path to victory for each team, identifying the X-Factors in all three competitions and making predictions about the final result.
4:30 p.m. ET | Watch live on ESPN
Top scorers: Brad Marchand, Bruins (4 G | 7 A)
Tony DeAngelo, Hurricanes (1 G | 7 A)
Road to victory for Boston: The best news for the Bruins here is that they have nothing to lose. Carolina was the better team overall in this series. They were the higher seed going in. But Boston still has a chance of getting past them.
All the pressure is on Carolina to perform in Game 7. The Bruins can just go out and play. And that will be the Bruins’ superpower. They have the veteran know-how of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. They have the goalscoring talents of David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall. They have a rock solid goaltender from Jeremy Swayman and a backend led by the talent of Charlie McAvoy. To win Game 7, all Boston has to do is be himself. — Shilton
Road to victory for Carolina: That’s why the regular season is important. The Hurricanes return to Raleigh licking their wounds, but knowing they absolutely dominated the Bruins this series at home ice.
They beat them 15-4 but more importantly they scored early and often. Carolina led 2-0, 3-0 and 4-0 in their home wins. They have taken fewer penalties in all three home games. They have better goalkeeping as Antti Raanta has a .974 save rate at Raleigh. They can get the matchups they want against the Bruins’ top two lines. “Of course you get the last change at home, which is an advantage. But you still have to come to play,” said defender Jaccob Slavin. They come to play with the volume and ferocity of their home fans. — Vyshynsky
Shilton’s X Factor: This could be due to goalkeepers. Carolina played the entire series without starter Frederik Andersen. Raanta has been great in his absence and Swayman has been just as good since taking over from Linus Ullmark. However, Swayman is riding on the cusp of a Game 6 win and that confidence could carry over to the Bruins in a big way.
Wyshynski’s X-factor: line matching. Coach Rod Brind’Amour waved the white flag in Boston when it came to taking Sebastian Aho away from Bruins duo Bergeron and Marchand. The Bruins had the last substitution and Bergeron played most of his minutes against the Hurricanes’ top line. In her last three wins, Carolina sent Jordan Staal’s line in countermeasure against Bergeron and Marchand while removing Aho from them. Do that again and it might be the aho line that makes the difference in Game 7.
Final Result Prediction: Shilton: 3-2 bruins
Wyshynski: 5-3 hurricanes
7 p.m. ET
Top scorers: Nikita Kucherov, Lightning (2 G | 6 A)
Austin Matthews, Maple Leaves (4 G | 4 A)
Road to victory for Tampa Bay: The Maple Leafs can talk all they want about being the better team in the series and that their past playoff failures — they haven’t won a playoff series since 2004 — are buried in the past. But it’s Game 7. It’s the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s the first time in any series that the Lightning have to plant that seed of doubt in the minds of their opponents and see what crooked limbs grow out of them.
Tactically, the Lightning need to play tighter defense ahead of Andrei Vasilevskiy and can’t allow the Leafs to score multiple goals in quick succession like they’ve done in the last two games. The path to victory is clear. It has previously been fired by Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn and Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning won a Game 7 to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals last season. The Leafs are 0-8 in the Auston Matthews/Mitch Marner era when they have a chance to eliminate their opponents. — Vyshynski
Road to victory for Toronto: The Leafs’ sad recent history of not progressing in the playoffs should be motivation enough to get the job done in Game 7. Toronto was the better team in Game 6. Losing in overtime was a tough pill given the number of chances they had. Vasilevskiy was sensational at the net and Toronto will expect to do the same again in Game 7. Certainly over the past two years, the Lightning have proven they know how to win on a big stage.
Yet Toronto has outplayed Tampa more times than not this series. The team’s core stars – Matthews, Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares – have all made important contributions in the last two games. Jack Campbell is back on point in the net. If the Leafs can just keep that status quo and challenge Vasilevskiy a little more with the traffic in front of them, they have a great chance to prevail. — Shilton
Shilton’s X Factor: It’s less a player and more the ability to deal with the circumstances. This series was defined by momentum swings – big ones. Called by penalty, and not. Through opportunities seized and missed. Tampa has the Stanley Cup pedigree here, but Toronto shouldn’t be intimidated by that. Campbell has a savings percentage of under .900 (.893) in this series – but so does Vasilevskiy (.885). Almost everything is balanced so far. Game 7 will decide which team can stay calm, cool, and collected the longest.
Wyshynski’s X-factor: For all the talk of the Lightning’s incredible 17-0 record from postseason losses, the Maple Leafs need to break another stunning streak to advance to the next round (eight straight losses in games that would have given them a streak) . ). Vasilevskiy has made a shutout in the last game of Tampa Bay’s last five winning streaks, including two Stanley Cup wins. Let’s face it: He hasn’t been great this series, with an .885 save ratio behind a pretty leaky defense. But when the Lightning are ready to close, he’s slammed the door on many series in the past.
Final Result Prediction: Shilton: 4-2 maple leaves
Wyshynski: 4-3 (OT) maple leaves
10 p.m. ET | Watch live on ESPN
Top scorers: Adrian Kempe, Kings (2 G | 4 A)
Connor McDavid, Oiler (3G | 9A)
Road to victory for Los Angeles: “First goal wins” is one of the more antiquated clichés in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it’s undeniably applicable to this series. In the three kings’ victories, they struck first; in their three defeats they haven’t. If you score first, the kings can take their defensive stance. Padding that lead forms a safety net in case Connor McDavid inevitably scores for Edmonton.
But to win Game 7, you need two things. First, to bring their competitive level up to that of the Oilers, who were the better team in Game 6, 5-on-5. Also, they need someone to step up to make an offensive difference. Trevor Moore had three points in his Game 1 win. Carl Grundstrom had three points in his Game 4 win. Adrian Kempe had three points and the overtime game winner in his Game 5 win. Who will be the hero this time? — Vyshynsky
Road to victory for Edmonton: Give the puck to Connor McDavid. Just kidding (sort of). Edmonton’s stars have prevailed in this series, however, from McDavid (12 points) to Evander Kane (seven goals) to Leon Draisaitl (eight points). These big names need to show themselves once again against a Kings team that has great offensive depth and the ability to block defensively.
And then there’s Jonathan Quick, who has been equal parts insightful and shaky in this series. The Oilers love to generate rushing chances, but making Quick uncomfortable with traffic and more commitment to the wheel game could pay dividends early on. Completing the last game in a series is a marathon effort. The Oilers must treat Game 7 as such. — Shilton
Shilton’s X Factor: Philip Danault. How good has he really been for the Kings this series and all season? He’s consistently frustrated the Oilers with suffocating defensive play. Danault does everything for LA, whether it’s winning key faceoffs, scoring timely goals or successfully battling for loose pucks. He’s the definition of a difference maker, with the ability to turn Game 7 in LA’s favor.
Wyshynski’s X-factor: Does Quick still have a vintage performance in it? The Kings keeper struggled in every one of his wins, including his 31 saves in Game 4 that made this a streak. While we don’t expect that kind of effort in this game, Quick is the definition of an X-Factor. When he’s on, he’ll be the difference.
Final Result Prediction: Shilton: 4-3 kings
Wyshynski: 3-2 kings