There have been years where the first round of the NHL playoffs was a disappointing, sweep-filled dud, but 2022 was not one of those years.
A record-tying five Games 7 were played over the weekend and, rooting interests aside, they did not disappoint. After the Leafs hilariously set a new mark for winner-take-all futility and the Panthers advanced in overtime and we got our annual Brad Marchand in tears shot on Saturday, there were two more Games 7 last night, both ending in euphoric OT winners for the home crowd.
Sadly, the Smurfs at the Garden were one of those victors. They advanced past the Penguins — who had Sidney Crosby and Islanders Playoff Hero Tristan Jarry (may need to remove that title now that he’s lost to the Rangers) back. In happier news, in terms of interest in the next round, the Flames advanced past the Stars to set up a Battle of Alberta.
That result was completely unfair to Stars goalie Jake Oettinger, who made the second-most saves ever in a Game 7 (Kelly Hrudey, naturally, still holds the top spot) with 64. They were point blank, side-to-side, acrobatic saves, too. It was fun hearing color commentator Brian Boucher, who once had five regular season shutouts in a row, marvel at Oettinger’s performance all night.
- Probably saw this already, but let it haunt you further: Connecting dots to wonder if Mike Babcock is in Lou Lamoriello’s sites. [Athletic]
- Meanwhile in the AHL playoffs, Bridgeport and Charlotte meet in Game 4 tonight. They trail 2-1 in the best-of-five series. The series winner will meet Springfield.
- Here is the second-round schedule. Every series keeps the every-other-day format except the Panthers-Lightning have a two-day gap between Games 3 and 4, which will happen on back-to-back days in Tampa. [NHL]
- The Stars were missing Roope Hintz for Game 7. [NHL]
- Nicklas Backstrom has been battling a hip injury with extensive daily prep so his future is uncertain. [NHL]
- Nick Paul joined Lightning and overall Game 7 lore with his performance in knocking off the...I forget which team they played but I’m sure it will come to me. [Athletic]
- Oh yeah, the Leafs are fine, just fine, except maybe in goal and with that massive cap hit for their captain, teehee. [Athletic]
- The Leafs and Toronto-centric media take great pains to insist they’re right there, really close to figuring this thing out. [Sportsnet]
- What took down the Bruins? Lack of secondary scoring, for one. [NHL]
- Now they await the decision of a primary scorer, captain and UFA Patrice Bergeron. [TSN]
- The Lightning were taken the distance by Toronto, and don’t get much relief with a Battle of Florida awaiting them next. That series and the Avalanche-Blues kick off the second round tomorrow. [Athletic]
- Antti Raanta’s daughter crashing his post-game press conference is the best thing from these playoffs thus far. [NHL]
- Over at the Worlds in Finland, Canada beat Italy and the U.S. needed OT to knock off Austria. [TSN]