The opening round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs has been anything but predictable – that is unless you are a fan of the Colorado Avalanche. Yes, the Avs did follow their projected opening round sweep, and took care of business against the Nashville Predators in just four games.
But every single other series has been non-stop, back-and-forth, jaw-dropping action that has kept hockey fans right on the edge of their seats over the past two weeks.
On Thursday, the St. Louis Blues surprised many with their six-game series victory over the higher-ranked Minnesota Wild, before the Florida Panthers waved goodbye to Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Friday night in their sixth game of the series.
So, of the eight series, just one was determined in the minimum four games, while no series ended after five. Both the Blues and Panthers eliminated their opponents in six games. That leaves five of the eight opening round series left to be determined by an all-decisive Game 7.
Yes, the two greatest words in hockey: ‘game seven’. And a whopping ten teams will have the pleasure – or pain – of dealing with the pressure of either a second round advancement or the tumult of postseason elimination.
In the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Maple Leafs squandered their opportunity to move on in Tampa Bay on Thursday evening, giving up a third period power play goal to the Bolts, before seeing Brayden Point win the game in overtime, despite outshooting the Lightning heavily in the extra frame. With the series shifting back to Canada for the all-decisive Game 7, one would imagine Scotiabank Arena, Maple Leaf Square and all of Toronto to be buzzing in hopes of the franchise’s first second round advancement since the early 2000s.
Also on Thursday, the Boston Bruins came out firing against the heavily favoured Carolina Hurricanes, scoring twice in the first period, before adding another three markers in the third, besting the Canes by an overwhelming score of 5-2. Bruins’ forward Brad Marchand has an Eastern Conference best 11 points in his six postseason games played. This series will now shift back to Raleigh for Game 7 on Saturday afternoon.
Later in the evening, Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers stormed back after allowing the Los Angeles Kings to tie a game that they had an early 2-0 lead in. Tyson Barrie hammered home a long-range shot that got through a very screened Jonathan Quick with just five minutes to play in the third, before Evander Kane picked up his seventh goal of the playoffs as an empty-netter in the game’s dying stages. Edmonton will host the Kings as the late-night showing for Game 7 on Saturday.
With Sidney Crosby missing from action due to a suspected concussion following a check to the head from New York’s Jacob Trouba, the Pittsburgh Penguins faltered on Friday. Despite jumping out to an early 2-0 lead over the visiting Rangers, the Pens gave up three-straight goals, before battling back once more on an individual effort from new No. 1 centre Evgeni Malkin. But Mika Zibanejad (hat trick) and Adam Fox (four assists) proved to be too much to handle, as Zibanejad’s goal with 1:28 to go was the winner, before Andrew Copp added an empty-netter as the seconds ticked off the clock. Madison Square Garden will be the host of Game 7 on Sunday.
On Friday night, the Calgary Flames squandered their chance to snuff out the Dallas Stars, giving up three even strength goals before Type Seguin sealed the deal with an empty-netter late in the third period. Jake Oettinger outduelled Jacob Markstrom, finishing the night with 36 saves on 38 shots, while Markstrom managed 36 stops on the 39 pucks he faced. The series will now shift back to Calgary for the seventh and final game on Sunday night at the Saddledome.