Four potential surprise heroes for Game 7 between Boston and Tampa Bay

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It’s the day of Game 7 between Boston and Tampa Bay with a date in the Stanley Cup finals on the line. There’s been plenty of build up to this one already and while everyone will be busy zeroing in on guys like Tim Thomas, Dwayne Roloson, Zdeno Chara, and Martin St. Louis there’s a host of other players that will suit up for Game 7 that could cement their legacies as heroes if they can help their teams win.

It’s more than easy to break down how the big guns for each team match up against each other and why not it’s where both teams have made a killing in this series. Guys like St. Louis, Steve Stamkos, and Vincent Lecavalier have been the best players for Tampa Bay while David Krejci and Nathan Horton have been the top performers for Boston. Picking names off the top line makes picking heroes out a little easier. So who out there for each team could jump out as a potential unsung hero tonight? We’ve got a pair of guys from each team that could catch you off guard and lead their teams to victory.

Michael Ryder – Boston Bruins

Michael Ryder has gone from being the guy Bruins fans wanted benched all season long to being a relatively useful offensive threat in the playoffs and proving why Claude Julien enjoys keeping him in the lineup every game. Ryder has 11 points in the playoffs and six of them have come in this series. While forwards like David Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Tyler Seguin are stealing the headlines in this series, Ryder’s been consistently hanging around and producing getting three goals and three assists against the Lightning. While the Bruins top line of Krejci, Horton, and Milan Lucic will get all the attention if Ryder and the rest of the third line can get things going against a Lightning team likely still going without Sean Bergenheim it can be Ryder’s time to shine once again and help his coach look like the smart guy all along.

Dominic Moore – Tampa Bay Lightning

Dominic Moore is one of those guys on the third line that’s found ways to be a killer in these playoffs. Against Pittsburgh he twice made unbelievable passes to Bergenheim for killer goals that changed the momentum of the game. Now without him to share the puck with, he’s having to play things a bit tougher. One thing he is doing is helping to win faceoffs to get the attack going and while he’s just a third

line guy, for the Lightning that doesn’t necessarily mean living life as a grinder. With a goal and two assists already against Boston, Moore is doing well enough on his own, but if the Bruins succeed in keeping Tampa Bay’s first two lines quiet look for Moore to be the guy to light the spark and raise his game.

Tomas Kaberle – Boston Bruins

No, we’re not joking here. While Kaberle still isn’t the defensive maven his position demands, he’s been contributing little by little offensively of late. He had two assists in both Games 2 and 6 and had an assist in Game 4. While he hasn’t gotten a lot of ice time throughout this series, in Game 6 he had over 19 minutes of time on the ice and it paid off. With that sort of confidence in his game back for at least one game and playing relatively well offensively, he could be the key point man to running the Bruins attack tonight. There’s sure to be more than enough attention paid to him regardless in Game 7 and it couldn’t hurt him to have a big game.

Ryan Malone – Tampa Bay Lightning

What’s remarkable about Malone’s series so far with Boston is that he’s played outstanding. He’s been physical, he hasn’t shied away from confrontations, and he’s helped spark the play of his line. When looking at his stats in this series you’d think he was a total dud as he’s got just one assist and is a -1 with 10 penalty minutes. The key stat for him that makes us think he’s due for a breakout? 12 shots on goal in the series. Malone was a major force with Pittsburgh during their 2008 Stanley Cup finals run and scored numerous clutch goals. He hasn’t yet punched one in in this series but with the way he’s played, he’s overdue to get one.

The Buzzer: Celebrating genius of McDavid, Bergeron, Karlsson

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Player of the Night: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

Nico Hischier collected two goals and an assist in a blistering effort as the Devils beat the Senators in overtime. Erik Karlsson almost ruined things for New Jersey with three assists. Andrei Vasilevskiy pitched an impressive 43-save shutout as the Lightning edged the Blue Jackets. Ben Bishop narrowly kept Clayton Keller and Derek Stepan from even bigger nights, yet each player scored two goals and one assist apiece in a slim Stars win vs. the Coyotes.

Even Bergeron’s teammates made some waves.

There were great choices for player of the night, but ultimately, Bergeron’s return to the Bruins lineup stands tallest. He scored a goal and three assists, soothing injury-bummed Bruins fans as part of Boston’s victory against Vancouver.

Bergeron didn’t ease right in. He won half of his draws, fired six shots on goal, and almost logged 21 minutes of ice time. Maybe he can hold things together for Boston?

Highlight of the Night: Connor McDavid‘s ridiculous assist

This post goes into greater detail on that and Edmonton’s win, so we’ll just stick this GIF in here because you need to see it either way:

OK, but to avoid an overly redundant buzzer, check Hischier here, David Pastrnak‘s great goal, and Mikhail Sergachev‘s big night. And, as a bonus, Will Butcher must have nodded to Karlsson after sending this ridiculous outlet pass:

Outstanding.

You know what? Enjoy Bishop robbing Derek Stepan as a bonus bonus.

Misc.

Click here for Erik Gudbranson‘s hit and fight. Zack Kassian‘s hit on Ryan Hartman is mentioned there, but just in case you missed it, here it is one more time:

Factoids of the night

Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators continued their hot streak by blanking the Flyers. Rinne enjoys a milestone moment:

Two impressive bits regarding how dominant McDavid and Karlsson have been:

Scores and more

Bruins 6, Canucks 3 (more)

Devils 5, Senators 4 [OT] (more)

Islanders 4, Rangers 3 [SO]

Predators 1, Flyers 0

Lightning 2, Blue Jackets 0 (more)

Oilers 2, Blackhawks 1 [OT] (more)

Blues 4, Avalanche 3

Hurricanes 2, Flames 1

Stars 5, Coyotes 4

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Should Erik Gudbranson get suspended for boarding Frank Vatrano?

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The Boston Bruins power play made Erik Gudbranson and the Vancouver Canucks pay with three goals during the major for his hit on Frank Vatrano, but the NHL might decide to go further.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety confirmed that Gudbranson, 25, will receive a Friday hearing for the boarding check. The league tends to be vague about this, but Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that it’s expected to being an interview over the phone, rather than the in-person variety that can bring about harsher punishments.

Vatrano returned to the Bruins’ eventual 6-3 win against the Canucks, yet there’s a chance that he might have a setback. (Knowing Boston’s recent luck, don’t count on good news until you see it.)

Watch the video and Gudbranson’s fight with Tim Schaller in the video above, via Hockey Fights.

Fans responded to that announcement by pointing out one of Thursday’s other questionable hits: Zack Kassian on Ryan Hartman, which only drew a minor penalty:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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McDavid dazzles again, Oilers break slump with OT win vs. Blackhawks

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Update: The Edmonton Oilers ended up needing every bit of Connor McDavid‘s brilliance, as goals weren’t coming easily against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

(Even though, as you can see with that highlight-reel assist, McDavid often makes it look easy.)

McDavid also managed a secondary assist on Mark Letestu‘s overtime-winner, ending the Edmonton Oilers’ losing streak at four games. The Blackhawks continue to be resourceful in getting standings points, in this case falling 2-1 in OT.

Anton Forsberg made 40 of 42 saves, but it wasn’t enough against a driven group led by number 97.

Here’s the OT goal.

If you haven’t seen the more amazing of McDavid’s two helpers, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won’t regret it.

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Connor McDavid’s speed and skill are glorious, but the thing that makes him extra-sensational is just how unstoppable he seems. Even against some of the NHL’s best.

To start the season, McDavid made very-solid Calgary Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie look downright permeable during the most impressive goal in his opening-night hat trick.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, the superstar tore through the Chicago Blackhawks – including certain future Hall of Famer Duncan Keith – and then sent absolutely obscene pass to Patrick Maroon for an easy goal.

You know how people used to say that a fire hydrant could score 50 goals with Mario Lemieux? We might need to bump that down to 30 for modern hockey, but either way, Maroon might laugh uncomfortably at such jokes.

If you prefer your jaw-droppers in GIF form, drop away:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Bergeron bombastic in return, but Bruins lose Krejci to injury

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The roller coaster isn’t slowing down for the Boston Bruins.

With Tuukka Rask‘s concussion looming over the proceedings, the Bruins gave fans some reason to celebrate; Patrice Bergeron scored a goal and three assists in an impressive 6-3 output by the B’s top guns against the overmatched Vancouver Canucks.

Even Anders Bjork enjoyed some measure of redemption after bowling over Rask in practice, as the young player scored two goals and an assist despite being limited to 12:29 TOI.

Other big guns like Brad Marchand did their increasingly reliable damage, with David Pastrnak probably providing the most exhilarating goal of the contest:

Yeah, that might get some attention from Canucks coach Travis Green in film sessions, assuming he doesn’t just burn the tape.

Bergeron broke down his night to Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy after the game:

The Bruins really made Erik Gudbranson and the Canucks pay for boarding Frank Vatrano, as they scored three power-play goals on the major penalty. Vatrano’s another health situation to watch, although it’s heartening that he returned during the game.

MORE: Gudbranson faces hearing for hit

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So … solid stuff overall, as the Bruins provided ample evidence that they might have the weapons to scrap through all this bad luck.

Then again, if opponents can slow the top-end guys, you wonder what kind of supporting cast the Bruins will have left through this run of attrition. David Krejci is the latest name to land on Boston’s troubling list of walking wounded.

Here’s hoping that it isn’t a big issue for a veteran center who’s dealt with nagging injuries in recent years.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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