Dominic Moore, Michael Ryder

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.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.