The Stanley Cup “Bubble Hockey” Playoffs have been a huge success for the league and its fans thus far. The NHL is deep into the second round, waiting to see who will join the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third round. And while playoff hockey in August and September has been a treat, fans are about to be treated to the best hockey there is: Game 7 hockey. THREE of them. In TWO days (excuse me while I pleasure myself).
Amazingly, these will be the first Game 7s of the playoffs. Even in the best-of-five play-in round, Columbus vs. Toronto was the only series to go the distance (Toronto lost in 5 games–on their home rink–and still haven’t won the Cup since 1967).
This is unusual, and it speaks to how unusual these playoffs have been. Yes, they’ve been great, and players clearly want to win and are playing hard. After all, these guys know that the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in sports, and you don’t get too many shots at making a deep run. But still, there has been a noticeable difference without fans in the stands. The intensity isn’t quite reaching the notch it usually does. But this shouldn’t really be a surprise; the adrenaline rush you get as a player from thousands of loud fans in the stands can’t be replicated any other way. Is this why we didn’t have any Game 7s in the first round? Maybe.
Regardless, we’re getting three Game 7s over the next two days. Tired of watching baseball while you fall asleep on the couch? Watch hockey. Tired of watching old NFL games and waiting for the new season to start? Watch hockey. There’s nothing quite like two teams fighting for their playoff lives.
Friday Game 7s:
Dallas Stars vs. Colorado Avalanche, 4 PM, USA
PREDICTION: Colorado wins 5-3. The Avalanche were down 3-1 in this series just a few nights ago, but have battled back to tie the series and have been riding journeyman goalie Michael Hutchinson their past two wins. The momentum is in their favor.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Vegas Golden Knights, 9 PM, NBCSN
PREDICTION: Vegas wins 3-2. Vegas has given up a 3-1 series lead to the young Canucks, but not for a lack of effort. They’ve had over 40 shots each of their past two games but have not been able to figure out young goalie Thatcher Demko. Tonight, they’ll figure him out and advance.
Saturday Game 7:
New York Islanders vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 7:30 PM, NBC
PREDICTION: New York Islanders win 4-2. The Islanders also gave up a 3-1 series lead, but deserved to close the series in Game 6 after putting over 50 shots on net. They’re one of the best defensive teams in the league with one of the league’s smartest coaches in Barry Trotz; they’ll figure it out.