Game 7 is never fun. It’s 60 minutes of incomparable stress unless it goes into overtime, then it borders on panic attack. You should erase any visions of an easy or stress-free game from your memory before the puck drops. This is the only series in NHL history where each of the first 6 games were decided by one goal. It’s been that close all series. This game will feel a lot like Game 7 against Tampa Bay last year, which was definitely the most stressful hockey game I’ve ever watched. Expect nothing less.
-Some things to look out for tonight-
Who gets on the board first and at which point in the contest. The Bruins scored the first goal in Game 6 and the teams traded goals after that. An early goal has typically been the way to see if Braden Holtby is on his A-game or not. When Holtby lets in an early goal or a softy he’s been prone to have a less than stellar game. On the other hand, if Holtby and his glove get some easy shots early he gets very comfortable. Don’t forget, he’s got nothing to lose. That makes him exceptionally dangerous.
The last change is paramount. The Bruins will be able to dictate who they match up against. Chara on Ovechkin or Backstrom. Claude can exploit Dennis Wideman or a particular line if the matchup is there. It’s the reason teams care so much about home-ice advantage, if used correctly it can make the difference in a series.
Speaking of Dennis Wideman, the former Bruin has been on the ice for seven of the Bruins 10 even strength goals in the series in just 87 minutes on ice. The Bruins need to exploit this weakness in the Caps defense.
Penalties are more important than ever. Referees typically swallow their whistles in Game 7 but referees have been all too important in deciding decisive games in this year’s playoffs. Earlier this week the refs gave the Rangers a BS 5-on-3 which screwed the Senators out of a potential Game 6 win. The good news is that Steve Wakolm, who called the BOS-TB Game 7 that didn’t feature a penalty in the game’s first 50+ minutes, is refereeing tonight. Players should decide Game 7, not the zebras.
I’ve thought this for a while now but the Capitals are most like last year’s Canadiens. They make a mess of the center of their zone, block a ton of shots and keep their goalie protected. They counter-punch when they can and make the most of their opportunities. They have a talented goalie with a lot of confidence and they are matchup hell for the B’s. The only difference is that their forwards are a lot more talented than the Habs of last year.
Anyone who says they feel good about this game is either lying or doesn’t properly respect the Caps. The Bruins have a great track record in Game 7′s but the beauty of Game 7 is that anything can and will happen. Take it all in tonight, these games don’t come very often. You can only hope that the better team wins.