X-factors, predictions for Saturday’s NHL Game 7

While the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs included a few too many blowouts for our liking, it also provided at least three Game 7s, the ultimate “tension convention.”

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Saturday will be the first time since April 30, 2014 that three Game 7s have been played on the same day, and it will also be the first time in NHL history that two Game 7s have been played. hosted by Canadian teams on the same day.

To help you prepare for the Boston Bruins and 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 a path to victory for each team, identifying the X-factors in all three contests and making final score predictions.

Jump to:

4:30 p.m. ET | Watch live on ESPN

Top scorers: Brad Marchand, Bruins (4 G | 7 A)
Tony DeAngelo, Hurricanes (1G|7A)

Path to victory for Boston: The best news for the Bruins here is that they have nothing to lose. Carolina was the best team in this series overall. They were the highest seed. Still, Boston still has a chance to overtake them.

All the pressure is on Carolina to perform in Game 7. The Bruins can just come out and play. And it will be the Bruins’ superpower. They have the expertise of veterans Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. They have the goalscoring skills of David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall. They have a rock-solid goalkeeper in Jeremy Swayman and a backline led by the talents of Charlie McAvoy. To win Game 7, Boston just has to be himself. — Shilton

Path to victory for Carolina: This is why the regular season is important. The Hurricanes return to Raleigh licking their wounds, but knowing they’ve absolutely outplayed the Bruins at home this series.

They outscored them 15-4, but more importantly, they scored early and often. Carolina had 2-0, 3-0 and 4-0 leads in home wins. They took fewer penalties in all three home games. They got better goaltenders, as Antti Raanta has a .974 save percentage in Raleigh. They can get the matchups they want against the Bruins’ top two lines. “Obviously at home you get the last change, which is an advantage. But you still have to come and play,” said defender Jaccob Slavin. With the volume and ferocity of their local fans, they will come to play. — Wyshynsky

Shilton’s X factor: It could come down to the goalkeeper. 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. Swayman is riding the high of a Game 6 win, and that confidence could carry over in a big way for the Bruins.

Wyshynski’s X factor: Line match. Coach Rod Brind’Amour waved the white flag in Boston when it came to removing Sebastian Aho from the Bruins duo of Bergeron and Marchand. The Bruins had the last change and Bergeron played the majority of his minutes against the Hurricanes’ first line. In their previous three wins, Carolina sent Jordan Staal’s line as a countermeasure against Bergeron and Marchand, while keeping Aho away from them. Do it again, and it could be the Aho line that will make the difference in Game 7.

Final score prediction: Shilton: 3-2 Bruins
Wyshynski: 5-3 Hurricanes

7 p.m. ET (TNT)

Top scorers: Nikita Kucherov, Lightning (2 G | 6 A)
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs (4 G | 4 A)

Road to victory for Tampa Bay: The Maple Leafs can say all they want about being the best team in the series and that their past playoff failures — having not won a playoff since 2004 — are buried in the past. But this is the seventh game. It’s the Toronto Maple Leafs. This is the first time any series the Lightning have had to plant those seeds of doubt in the minds of their opponents and see what twisted limbs come out.

Tactically, the Lightning need to play a tighter defense in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy and can’t allow the Leafs to score multiple goals in quick succession like they have in the last two games. The path to victory is clear. He has already been blazed by Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn and Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning won 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. — Wyshynsky

Road to victory for Toronto: The Leafs’ sad recent history of being unable to advance to 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 to swallow considering how many chances they had. Vasilevskiy has been sensational in net, and Toronto will be expecting that to be the case again in Game 7. Certainly, the Lightning have proven over the past two years that they know how to win on a big stage.

Still, Toronto has outplayed Tampa more times than not in this series. The team’s main stars – Matthews, Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares – have all been significant contributors in the last two games. Jack Campbell is back on point in net. If the Leafs can just maintain that status quo and challenge Vasilevskiy a little more with the traffic ahead, they have a great chance of going through. — Shilton

Shilton’s X factor: It’s not so much a player as his ability to handle circumstances. This streak has been defined by swings in momentum – the big ones. By called penalties, and no. By seized and missed opportunities. Tampa has Stanley Cup pedigree here, but Toronto shouldn’t let that intimidate them. Campbell has a sub-.900 save percentage in this series (.893) — but so does Vasilevskiy (.885). Almost everything to date has been matched. Game 7 will be decided in favor of the team that can stay calm, cool, and collected the longest.

Wyshynski’s X factor: Despite all the talk of the Lightning’s incredible 17-0 record after playoff losses, the Maple Leafs are going to have to snap another stunning streak to advance to the next round (eight straight losses in games that would have earned them a series ). Vasilevskiy had a shutout in the last game of Tampa Bay’s last five series, including two Stanley Cup clinchers. Let’s be real: he hasn’t been great this series, with an .885 save percentage behind a rather slippery defense. But when the Lightning are ready to shut down, they’ve walked out on many playoffs in the past.

Final score prediction: Shilton: 4-2 Maple Leafs
Wyshynski: 4-3 (overtime) Maple Leafs

10 p.m. ET | Watch live on ESPN

Top scorers: Adrian Kempe, Kings (2 G | 4 A)
Connor McDavid, Oilers (3G | 9A)

Path to victory for Los Angeles: “First baseman wins” is one of the dustiest clichés of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it’s undeniably applicable in this series. In all three of the Kings’ wins, they have struck first; in their three losses, they did not. Scoring first allows the Kings to get into their defensive posture. Cushioning that lead creates a safety net for when Connor McDavid inevitably scores for Edmonton.

But to win Game 7, they will need two things. First, to raise their level of competition to match the Oilers, who were the better team at 5-5 in Game 6. Plus, they’ll need someone to make the difference offensively. Trevor Moore had three points in his Game 1 victory. Carl Grundstrom had three points in their Game 4 victory. Adrian Kempe had three points and the game winner in overtime in their Game 5 victory. Who will be the hero this time? — Wyshynsky

Road to victory for Edmonton: Give the puck to Connor McDavid. Just kidding (sort of). The stars of Edmonton won in this series, from McDavid (12 points) to Evander Kane (seven goals) passing by Leon Draisaitl (eight points). These big names have to show up once again, against a Kings side with great offensive depth and capable of locking down defensively.

And then there’s Jonathan Quick, who has been both revealing and jerky on this show. The Oilers love generating rushing chances, but making Quick uncomfortable with traffic and more commitment to cycle play could pay off early. Closing out the last game of any series is a marathon effort. The Oilers need to treat Game 7 as such. — Shilton

Shilton’s X factor: Philippe Danault. How good has he been for the Kings in this series, and all season, really? He frustrated the Oilers time and time again with stifling defensive play. Danault does everything for Los Angeles, whether it’s winning crucial faceoffs, scoring timely goals or successfully battling for loose pucks. He is the definition of a difference maker, with the ability to turn Game 7 in LA’s favor.

Wyshynski’s X factor: Does Quick have one more vintage performance in it? The Kings goaltender has fought in each of their wins, including his 31-save performance in Game 4 that made it a streak. While we wouldn’t expect that kind of effort in this game, Quick is the very definition of an X factor. If it’s on, it will make a difference.

Final score prediction: Shilton: 4-3 Kings
Wyshynsky: 3-2 Kings

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