If tonight’s two Game 7’s provide the kind of excitement last night’s game between Vancouver and Chicago did we’ll all be better off for it. We also might pass out or have a heart attack as well. That kind of excitement is unbeatable and what makes the NHL playoffs unlike any other. If Tampa Bay-Pittsburgh and Montreal-Boston can weave some of their own magic tonight, the following rounds of the playoffs will have their work cut out for them to beat the drama of the first round. Here’s our five thoughts for today.
1. How relieved was Alex Burrows after scoring the game-winner in overtime to send the Canucks to the second round? After getting the Canucks out front early with a goal, Burrows’ night started skidding towards hell after not converting a penalty shot, then turning the puck over late that led to Jonathan Toews’ tying shorthanded goal and then taking a penalty for holding Duncan Keith in overtime. So many possible dire outcomes there for Burrows and the Canucks and yet they prevailed. Alex Burrows lived Vancouver’s series with Chicago just over the course of a night starting out sky high then hitting rock bottom only to surface again on top of the world. The Canucks aren’t quite there yet, but Burrows’ goal could be the catalyst to get them there.
2. Poor Ryan Miller. He was carrying all the swagger for a Buffalo team that distinctly lacks a personality. He’s had an “off” season for his abilities and for half of the playoff series with Philadelphia, he showed signs of the Miller we’re more used to seeing. Then Game 7 happens and the Flyers beat Buffalo in virtually every way possible and Miller gets yanked from the game. Tough way to go out but this Sabres team learned a lot about themselves this year. After such a rough start to the season they stuck to each other and rallied hard. Unfortunately for them, the Flyers rediscovered who they were in Game 7. It’s tough to match up with a team that plays that hard every shift.
3. Can’t help but wonder if any of the voters for the Calder Trophy felt a bit awkward seeing Corey Crawford stand on his head and thensome against Vancouver last night. Coach Joel Quenneville couldn’t have heaped more praise on him for how he played and he earned every bit of it. Considering how things played out for Chicago this season, the impending restricted free agent was truly their team MVP given how things shook out with Marty Turco to start and how Crawford seized the day and owned the job. Here’s to hoping the Blackhawks don’t screw the pooch in dealing with Crawford the way they did with Antti Niemi.
4. Quite the contrast we got in Game 7s last night. One a beat down from the get-go, the other a classic drama with sudden death overtime there to decide it all. Incredible that after seven games it all comes down to whoever scores last. It’s easy for us hockey fans to talk about how amazing Game 7 is but there truly is nothing that tops Game 7 overtime in the NHL. Doesn’t matter what round of the playoffs it happens in, it’s the most edge-of-your-seat madness you encounter. It’s only perfect that that’s how things broke down between Vancouver and Chicago. With their history, with how the series played out, with all the shared animosity it was a perfect way to wrap that series up. And to think… That’s just the first round.
5. A lot of people probably didn’t know who Kevin Pollock was before yesterday’s Game 6 between Montreal and Boston. When you read or hear the name you’re more likely to think of actor and comedian Kevin Pollak, but it was no laughing matter for either team last night. Pollock’s rough night started right off the bat in the first as he blew a play dead for losing sight of the puck when it very much was not smothered up by Tim Thomas. Brian Gionta pounced on the loose puck and put it in only to have it waved off. A brutally bad call but not one that even replay could change. Then in the second period Pollock whistled Milan Lucic for a boarding major after he took out Jaroslav Spacek with a terrible hit from behind.
In such a wound up and hostile atmosphere with both teams champing at the bit, having one awful call getting evened out by a very dubious one makes both teams angry. The Habs are angry because they were cost a goal and the Bruins are mad because they lost a player for more than half the game. The stress of being a referee is sky high in the playoffs and only more so between these two teams. It’s not just the players that can have an off night, the guys in stripes have to be sharp too, just that when an official boots a call (or two) it can drastically swing the fortune of the game. Let’s hope things go a lot smoother tonight.