The greatest Game 7 heroes in NHL history (and who might become one tonight)

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A lot of people think that it’s unfair that the playoffs can make or break players’ legacies. It’s reasonable to feel uncomfortable about that since the sample size is so small, but there’s no doubt that lasting memories are made when everyone can focus on one game. The fact that tonight’s Detroit Red Wings-San Jose Sharks match is a Game 7 only intensifies that scrutiny.

The fact that Game 7s are still technically one game means that lesser known players can often steal the spotlight. Maxime Talbot scored two goals against the Red Wings in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals to win the Pittsburgh Penguins’ third championship. Mike Rupp came out of nowhere to score the game-winning goal and two other assists in the New Jersey Devils’ most recent Cup win. Ruslan Fedotenko scored two goals to help the Tampa Bay Lightning win their only Cup in a similarly surprising fashion.

Still, when The Hockey News named its top 10 all-time Game 7 performances, most of the biggest games were provided by the biggest names. Perhaps it only makes sense that the sport’s most famous star also happened to top the list of performers in the league’s highest profile games:

3. Mark Messier, Rangers, 1994

The Rangers captain famously guaranteed a win against New Jersey in the Eastern Conference final, then followed that up with the Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 7 against Vancouver.

2. Ron Hextall, Philadelphia, 1987

It’s rare to see the Conn Smythe Trophy given to a member of the losing team, but that’s what happened to Hextall in Philly’s Cup final series loss to the Oilers. Hextall made 40 saves in a losing cause in the Flyers’ Game 7, 3-1 loss and was spectacular throughout the series.

1. Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles, 1993

During the Campbell Conference final between Toronto and the Kings, Gretzky put up arguably the best single-game showing of his unrivaled career, recording a hat trick and virtually willing L.A. to victory over a plucky, Doug Gilmour-led Leafs squad.

(If you here some rumbling from Toronto, their words might sound like “high-stick!”)

NHL.com provides its list of three unlikely heroes from each side, but I thought I might throw out a few more anticipated names who might come through for their teams.

Most likely Detroit heroes

Nicklas Lidstrom – He leads the Red Wings in points in Game 7s and factored into some of the team’s most important goals in this series already. Most signs indicate he should be back to play next season, but if he has doubts, he’ll obviously want to keep this run alive.

Pavel Datsyuk – Despite shrugging off an injured wrist, the all-world forward is still an irresistible force.

Henrik Zetterberg – He’s often overshadowed by Datsyuk, but Zetterberg is a dynamic two-way player in his own right and was the team’s top regular season scorer with 80 points.

Niklas Kronwall – Kronwall is showing signs of returning to the form that made him seem like the “next big thing” on the Detroit blueline a couple years ago. He gets most of his attention from those bone-crushing checks, but Kronwall can score points too.

Most likely San Jose heroes

Devin Setoguchi – He scored the OT-winner to clinch the Sharks’ historic comeback against the Kings and already has an OT winner against the Red Wings in this series. This would solidify the belief that he’s a thorn in Detroit’s side.

Joe Thornton – Jumbo Joe already has a playoff series-clinching goal this year. Would another one turn his critics’ volume down that much more?

Joe Pavelski – “The Big Pavelski” has been gold in the last two postseasons for San Jose.

Dan Boyle – The Sharks’ greatest weapon from the blueline has a Stanley Cup ring on his resume and plenty of scoring ability.

***

Of course, the Hollywood ending would involve Patrick Marleau either coming up huge for his team or blowing the game in a tragic way. We’ll see what happens tonight, but in the mean time: who do you think will be the biggest difference-maker?

Fantasy Adds & Drops: Splurge on Spurgeon

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Every week, PHT will aim to help its readers by providing some fantasy hockey advice. This column will try to help you navigate through the rough waters of your league’s waiver wire.

We’ll tell you which players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues need to be added and we’ll also look at players it’s time to cut ties with.

Here we go:

Adds:

Jared Spurgeon-D- Minnesota Wild (owned in 44 percent of leagues)

The Wild blue liner has been out with a groin injury for the last couple of weeks, but head coach Bruce Boudreau mentioned that he’s already started skating. Despite missing the last six games, he’s still on pace to hit the 50-point mark this season. Even if he misses another game or two, he’s certainly worth adding off the waiver wire. Pick him up before someone else does.

Tom Wilson-LW/RW- Washington Capitals (44 percent)

Wilson has been putting up points lately, as he has seven points during a three-game point streak. I don’t expect that type of offensive output to continue, but he’s certainly worth adding if you play in a league that awards points for penalty minutes.

Reilly Smith-LW/RW- Vegas Golden Knights (35 percent)

Somehow, the Golden Knights and their players continue to get the job done. Smith was an afterthought when Vegas acquired him from the Panthers, but he’s been terrific so far. He has 22 points in 29 games this season, which puts him on pace to surpass the 60-point mark. Smith doesn’t have a high ceiling, but his floor appears to be pretty stable.

[More Fantasy: Check out RotoWorld’s Waiver Wired column]

Tyler Johnson-C- Tampa Bay Lightning (32 percent)

While Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov were getting off to ridiculous starts, Johnson came out of the gate pretty slowly. On the bright side, he seems to have woken up. Johnson is currently riding a four-game point streak and he’s picked up points in six of his last seven games. Can he keep it up though?

Tomas Hertl-C/LW- San Jose Sharks (27 percent)

For the first time this season, Hertl has collected at least one point in three straight games. It’s probably still a little early to trust him with an add, but I just wanted to make sure he popped up on your fantasy radar. He’s currently on pace to hit the 20-goal plateau for the second time in his career. Hertl is also seeing plenty of ice time, so this could be the start of a good scoring run for him.

Kyle Connor-LW- Winnipeg Jets (17 percent)

I’ve mentioned Connor’s name in this column a couple of times, but he continues to be under-valued in fantasy. The 21-year-old is on pace to score over 30 goals and almost 60 points this season. He appears to be over the lower-body injury that cost him a game last week, so there’s no reason not to pick him up.

[RotoWorld’s In the Crease column has all your fantasy goalie advice]

Drops:

Cam Atkinson-RW- Columbus Blue Jackets (62 percent)

After he scored 35 goals last year, nobody could have predicted the meteoric slide that Atkinson has been on this season. The Jackets still rewarded him with a contract extension a few weeks ago, but that hasn’t woken him up from his slumber. Finally, on Saturday night, head coach John Tortorella decided to make him a healthy scratch. Atkinson has no points in his last six games and just two goals (in the same game) in his last 15.

Brendan Gallagher-RW- Montreal Canadiens (59 percent)

Gallagher has had a terrific season for the Canadiens, but there’s no way he’s going to be able to hit the 35-goal pace he’s currently on. The Habs winger hasn’t picked up a point in three games and he’s carried a minus-5 rating during that stretch. Gallagher is the heart-and-soul of the Canadiens, but that doesn’t translate into fantasy points.

Malcolm Subban-G- Vegas Golden Knights (46 percent)

Now that Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) has been activated off the injured list, Subban won’t see as much action. In fairness to Subban, he’s been really good when called upon this season, but he simply doesn’t need to be owned in any fantasy leagues unless Fleury is injured again.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Is it time for the Sens to trade Erik Karlsson?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill isn’t worried about Jimmy Howard‘s recent slide. (MLive.com)

• The ESPN roundtable discusses whether or not the Senators should consider trading Erik Karlsson. The answer to this one seems pretty easy. (ESPN.com)

• Certain NHLers prefer not wearing a helmet during pre-game warmups so they can show off their hair. (Sports Illustrated)

• The Columbus Blue Jackets have one of the top penalty-killing units in the NHL. It’s so good, it’s even won them games. (Columbus Dispatch)

Jamie Benn has struggled to find the back of the net over the last 10 games, but he’s not the only Dallas Star that needs to get going. (Dallas Morning News)

• The Montreal Canadiens have a couple of days off after their ugly loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. They have plenty to figure out before they take on the Devils on Thursday. (Habs Eyes on the Prize)

• The Devils expected a lot from young forward Pavel Zacha, but 2017-18 hasn’t been his year so far. How can they get his development back on the track? (NJDab.com)

Alex Ovechkin and the Caps have been rolling of late. They’ll look to keep that going in a game against the Islanders. (DCpuckdrop.com)

• With whiffs of expansion in the air, hockey fans and bar owners are excited to find out whether or not Seattle can become a hockey town. (National Post)

• Even though they’re one of the teams that’s scored the least amount of goals this season, Fear the Fin doesn’t believe that the Sharks need to make a trade for a scoring forward. (Fear the Fin)

• Team USA will look to repeat as World Junior Hockey Championship champions. Here’s a full preview of what the roster might look like. (The Hockey Writers)

P.K. Subban was really good in the game he played against his brother, Malcolm, and the Vegas Golden Knights. (Predlines.com)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: McElhinney with the McShutout, Schenn scores again

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Players of the Night: 

Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs:

McElhinney turned aside all 41 shots that came his way as the Leafs shutout the Edmonton Oilers 1-0. The Leafs backup improved to 3-2-0 on the season and his save percentage jumped from .900 to 9.25. Toronto has now won three straight and six of their past 10.

Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues:

Schenn notched his sixth goal in his past four games and extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with a goal 40 seconds into the game. The Blues are now winners of four straight and six of their past 10.

Eric Stall, Minnesota Wild & Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: 

Both scored twice for their respective teams in an entertaining 4-3 win for the Wild in overtime.

Highlight of the Night: 

Vladimir Tarasenko catches the Sabres defense sleeping in overtime, scoring his first non-empty net goal in nine games:

Factoid of the Night: 

Patrick Kane didn’t score, but his two assists were instrumental in giving the Chicago Blackhawks a victory on Sunday.

Scores: 

Blackhawks 3, Coyotes 1

Blues 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

Maple Leafs 1, Oilers 0

Wild 4, Sharks 3


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Alex Burrows fined $5,000 for roughing

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Alex Burrows won’t be on Dylan DeMelo‘s Christmas card list this year.

Not after Burrows swiped DeMelo in the face with the butt-end of his stick on Saturday night.

Burrows got slapped with a $5,000 fine for roughing on Sunday night, the maximum permissible under the CBA. The money is one thing, but Burrows and the Senators have bigger issues at the moment.

It didn’t help the little incident happened in the third period and the game all but over for the Senators. Here’s the slow-mo shot of the infraction:

DeMelo suffered a scratch cornea and narrowly missed a major eye injury, according to Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. 

DeMelo was in the lineup for the Sharks on Sunday against the Minnesota Wild.

Burrows’ $5,000 goes to the player’s Emergency Assistance Fund.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck