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


Whereas the primary spherical of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs has included just a few too many blowouts for our liking, it has additionally offered a minimum of three Recreation 7s, the last word “stress conference.”

In keeping with ESPN Stats & Data, Saturday would be the first time since Apr. 30, 2014, that there can be three Recreation 7s performed on the identical day, and it’ll even be the primary time in NHL historical past that two Recreation 7s can be hosted by Canadian groups on the identical day.

To assist get you prepared for Boston BruinsCarolina Hurricanes (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), Tampa Bay LightningToronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET, TNT) and Los Angeles KingsEdmonton Oilers (10 p.m. ET, ESPN), we’re breaking down a path to victory for every workforce, figuring out the X components in all three contests and making final-score predictions.

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

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

Path to victory for Boston: One of the best information for the Bruins right here is they have nothing to lose. Carolina has been the higher workforce on this sequence total. They had been the upper seed getting in. But Boston nonetheless stands with an opportunity to advance previous them.

All of the strain is on Carolina to carry out in Recreation 7. The Bruins merely get to exit and play. And that would be the Bruins’ superpower. They’ve the veteran know-how from Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. They’ve the goal-scoring abilities of David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall. They’ve rock-solid goaltending from Jeremy Swayman, and a again finish led by the abilities of Charlie McAvoy. To win Recreation 7, Boston has to simply be itself. — Shilton

Path to victory for Carolina: That is why the common season issues. The Hurricanes return to Raleigh licking their wounds, however figuring out that they’ve completely dominated the Bruins on house ice on this sequence.

They’ve outscored them 15-4, however extra importantly, they’ve scored early and sometimes. Carolina had leads of 2-0, 3-0 and 4-0 of their house wins. They’ve taken fewer penalties in all three house video games. They’ve gotten higher goaltending, as Antti Raanta has a .974 save share in Raleigh. They will get the matchups they need towards the Bruins’ high two strains. “Clearly at house you get the final change, which is a bonus. However you continue to have to come back to play,” mentioned defenseman Jaccob Slavin. With the quantity and ferocity of their house followers, they will come to play. — Wyshynski

Shilton’s X issue: This might come right down to goaltending. Carolina has performed the complete sequence with out starter Frederik Andersen. Raanta has been nice in his absence, and Swayman has been equally good since taking up for Linus Ullmark. Swayman is driving the excessive of a Recreation 6 win although, and that confidence might carry over in a giant manner for the Bruins.

Wyshynski’s X issue: Line matching. Coach Rod Brind’Amour waved the white flag in Boston when it got here to getting Sebastian Aho away from the Bruins’ duo of Bergeron and Marchand. The Bruins have the final change, and Bergeron performed the vast majority of his minutes towards the Hurricanes’ high line. Of their earlier three wins, Carolina despatched out Jordan Staal‘s line as a countermeasure towards Bergeron and Marchand, whereas getting Aho away from them. Try this once more, and it may very well be the Aho line that is the distinction in Recreation 7.

Closing rating prediction: Shilton: 3-2 Bruins
Wyshynski: 5-3 Hurricanes

7 p.m. ET (TNT)

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

Path to victory for Tampa Bay: The Maple Leafs can speak all they need about being the higher workforce within the sequence and their previous playoff failures — not having received a playoff sequence since 2004 — being buried previously. But it surely’s Recreation 7. It is the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is the primary time all sequence the Lightning have needed to plant these seeds of doubt within the minds of their opponents and see what crooked limbs develop from them.

Tactically, the Lightning should play tighter protection in entrance of Andrei Vasilevskiy and may’t permit the Leafs to attain a number of objectives in fast succession as they’ve within the final two video games. The trail to victory is evident. It has been blazed earlier than by Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn and Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning received a Recreation 7 to advance to the Stanley Cup Closing final season. The Leafs are 0-8 within the Auston Matthews/Mitch Marner period when having an opportunity to get rid of their opponents. — Wyshynski

Path to victory for Toronto: The Leafs’ unhappy current historical past of being unable to advance within the playoffs must be motivation sufficient to get the job finished in Recreation 7. Toronto was the higher workforce in Recreation 6. Shedding in time beyond regulation was a tricky capsule to swallow given the quantity of alternatives that they had. Vasilevskiy was sensational in internet, and Toronto will count on that to be the case once more in Recreation 7. Actually the Lightning have confirmed the final two years they know how you can win on a giant stage.

But Toronto has outplayed Tampa as a rule on this sequence. The workforce’s core stars — Matthews, Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares — have all been essential contributors the final two video games. Jack Campbell is again on level in internet. If the Leafs can merely keep that established order, and problem Vasilevskiy a little bit extra with site visitors in entrance, they’ve a terrific probability of pushing by means of. — Shilton

Shilton’s X issue: It isn’t a lot a participant as it’s the potential to deal with circumstance. This sequence has been outlined by momentum swings — large ones. By penalties referred to as, and never. By alternatives grasped, and missed. Tampa has the Stanley Cup pedigree right here, however Toronto should not let that intimidate them. Campbell has a sub-.900 save share on this sequence (.893) — however so does Vasilevskiy (.885). Virtually the whole lot up to now has been evenly matched. Recreation 7 can be determined in favor of which workforce can keep calm, cool and picked up the longest.

Wyshynski’s X issue: For all of the speak in regards to the Lightning’s unbelievable 17-0 file after postseason losses, the Maple Leafs are going to have to interrupt a special mind-boggling streak to advance to the subsequent spherical (eight straight losses in video games that might have received them a sequence). Vasilevskiy has pitched a shutout within the closing recreation of Tampa Bay’s final 5 sequence wins, together with two Stanley Cup-clinching victories. Let’s be actual: He hasn’t been nice this sequence, with a .885 save share behind a fairly leaky protection. However when the Lightning are prepared to shut, he is slammed the door on many sequence previously.

Closing rating prediction: Shilton: 4-2 Maple Leafs
Wyshynski: 4-3 (OT) Maple Leafs

10 p.m. ET | Watch live on ESPN

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

Path to victory for Los Angeles: “First aim wins” is among the dustier cliches within the Stanley Cup playoffs, however it’s undeniably relevant on this sequence. Within the Kings’ three victories, they’ve struck first; of their three losses, they haven’t. Scoring first permits the Kings to get arrange of their defensive posture. Padding that lead builds a security internet for when Connor McDavid inevitably scores for Edmonton.

However to win Recreation 7, they will want two issues. First, to boost their compete stage to match that of the Oilers, who had been the higher workforce at 5-on-5 in Recreation 6. Additionally, they will want somebody to step as much as be an offensive difference-maker. Trevor Moore had three factors of their Recreation 1 win. Carl Grundstrom had three factors of their Recreation 4 win. Adrian Kempe had three factors and the time beyond regulation game-winner of their Recreation 5 victory. Who would be the hero this time? — Wyshynski

Path to victory for Edmonton: Give the puck to Connor McDavid. Simply kidding (form of). Edmonton’s stars have carried the day on this sequence, although, from McDavid (12 factors) to Evander Kane (seven objectives) to Leon Draisaitl (eight factors). These large names have to point out out yet another time, towards a Kings workforce wielding nice offensive depth and able to locking down defensively.

After which there’s Jonathan Quick, who has been equal elements revelatory and rickety on this sequence. The Oilers love producing rush possibilities, however making Fast uncomfortable with site visitors and extra dedication to the cycle recreation might repay early. Closing out any sequence’ closing recreation is a marathon effort. The Oilers should deal with Recreation 7 as such. — Shilton

Shilton’s X issue: Phillip Danault. How good has he been for the Kings on this sequence, and the complete season, actually? He is pissed off the Oilers again and again with a suffocating defensive recreation. Danault does all of it for L.A., whether or not it is profitable essential faceoffs, scoring well timed objectives or efficiently battling for unfastened pucks. He’s the definition of a difference-maker, with the flexibility to show Recreation 7 in L.A.’s favor.

Wyshynski’s X issue: Does Fast have yet another classic efficiency in him? The Kings goaltender battled in every of their victories, together with his 31-save Recreation 4 efficiency that made this a sequence. Whereas we do not count on that form of effort on this recreation, Fast is the very definition of an X issue. If he is on, he would be the distinction.

Closing rating prediction: Shilton: 4-3 Kings
Wyshynski: 3-2 Kings

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