Three second-round series are already underway in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but there’s still one first-round match-up to be settled with a Game 7.
The first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs only provided us with two series that went the distance.
Game 7 between the Vegas Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild was a bit of a dud. The Golden Knights cruised to a 6-2 victory.
With any luck, tonight’s Game 7 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens will be much better. There’s a ton on the line for both of these storied franchises here. The Canadiens are trying to salvage a season that started off with so much promise before hitting turbulence.
The Maple Leafs are trying to avoid a collapse that would add an epic new chapter to their already long book of postseason misery. By Tuesday morning, there may be a Canadian civil war underway between Ontario and Quebec.
Meanwhile, the second round is already underway in the other divisions. Let’s get you caught up on everything that’s been going on in the playoffs over the last week.
Colorado Avalanche VS Vegas Golden Knights
The Wild battled back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Golden Knights, but Max Pacioretty returned to help save Vegas in Game 7. Their 6-2 win set up that heavily-anticipated series with the Colorado Avalanche.
For Game 1 against Colorado on Sunday, Vegas coach Pete DeBoer made the curious decision to start Robin Lehner over Marc-Andre Fleury, the latter of whom has been standing on his head basically all year for the Knights, including in their series against the Wild. Perhaps DeBoer just wanted to get Fleury a bit of rest.
Regardless, it didn’t go well.
Lehner was shelled for seven goals on 37 shots in a 7-1 loss. Nathan MacKinnon had two goals and an assist and now has eight goals and 12 points in five playoff games. Cale Makar had a goal and three assists. Colorado still hasn’t lost a game in these playoffs. Game 2 goes on Wednesday. Good luck, Vegas.
Carolina Hurricanes VS Tampa Bay Lightning
The final four games of the Hurricanes’ series against the Nashville Predators all went to overtime. After Nashville won Games 3 and 4 in overtime to even up the series, Carolina pulled out OT wins in Games 5 and 6 to advance.
Meanwhile, a healthy Tampa Bay Lightning team just proved to be too much for the Florida Panthers, as the Lightning finished that series off in six games as well.
Game 1 between Carolina and Tampa Bay on Sunday went to the defending champs by a score of 2-1. Barclay Goodrow broke a 1-1 tie with just over seven minutes remaining in the third on a goal that Alex Nedjelkovic would probably like to have back.
Game 2 goes on Tuesday.
Boston Bruins VS New York Islanders
Both of the lower-seeded teams advanced out of the first round in the East. The Bruins won four in a row against the Washington Capitals to wrap that series up in five games.
As for the Islanders, they apparently weren’t ready to close the doors on Nassau Coliseum yet, winning three straight against the Pittsburgh Penguins after falling behind 2-1 in that series to eliminate Jeff Carter and friends.
So much for the LA Kings getting that 2022 third-rounder from Pittsburgh bumped up to a second.
These teams kicked off the second round on Saturday in front of 17,000 fans at TD Garden. David Pastrnak gave the home crowd plenty to cheer about, scoring a hat trick in a 5-2 Boston win.
Game 2 goes on Monday.
Toronto Maple Leafs VS Montreal Canadiens
The Maple Leafs outscored the Canadiens 11-2 over the course of Games 2-4, taking a 3-1 series lead and looking like they were finally going to win a playoff series for the first time since 2004.
They still might, but things have definitely gotten interesting after back-to-back overtime wins by Montreal to force a Game 7 in Toronto on Monday.
With 2,500 people allowed to be in attendance at Bell Centre for Game 6 on Saturday, Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s overtime winner was a great moment for the Canadiens and their fans in what was the first NHL game played in front of a live audience in Canada since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to overstate how much pressure is on the Leafs for this Game 7. Toronto cruised to the best record in the North Division this season, was heavily favored over Montreal and looked to have this series in the bag after Game 4.
Of course, the Leafs’ past is weighing on them here as well. The fact that they haven’t won a series in almost two decades hasn’t been for lack of opportunity. They’ve now lost seven straight playoff games in which they had a chance to win a series.
Monday is their third and final chance to close out the Habs. Either the Maple Leafs are going to exorcise a lot of their demons tonight, or “it was 3-1” is going to become the new “it was 4-1.”
The winner of Game 7 will begin the second round on Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets, who’ve been off since finishing off a sweep of the Edmonton Oilers on May 24.