Five Thoughts: Boston and Tampa Bay play a Game 7 for the ages

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A Game 7 worthy of being labeled a Game 7. This isn’t your 7-0 Game 7 no show or something along those orders. In this case, Boston and Tampa Bay did the way it was meant to be done. Breakneck pace, chances for both sides, tremendous goaltending all around, and ultimately one team going home a tough loser. For Boston, their success in beating Tampa Bay 1-0 ends in euphoria for a night for the Bruins before heading into the Stanley Cup finals and dealing with the league’s best team in Vancouver. On this night, there are more than five thoughts one could have but we’ll keep it in check.

1. When breaking down what we might see in this game, the one thing we figured would be Tampa Bay’s toughest thing to deal with would be if Boston settled in and played “Bruins hockey” and sure enough that’s just what they got a massive dose of. A tight checking game, suffocating pressure from the Bruins forecheck, sticks in passing lanes, and solid goaltending from Tim Thomas. In essence, it was the absolute worst thing Tampa Bay wanted to see in this game.

There was no secret game plan from Lightning coach Guy Boucher and while the Lightning’s best players played well, no one was able to rise above the Bruins defense. You want “Bruins hockey” you saw it in textbook form tonight and it’s all thanks to Claude Julien’s due diligence.

2. Let’s get the elephant out of the room and just move along. Nathan Horton scores the only goal of the game in a game where it was questionable and highly arguable whether or not he should’ve been playing in thanks to his water bottle antics after Game 6. In my mind we all knew deep down that Horton wouldn’t get suspended, after all, it’s “just some water” and the next game was Game 7.

Of course, doing anything to fans should be an instant non-starter so allowing water to be squirted on fans, provoked or not, is something any professional athlete should most definitely know better than to do. Horton’s fortunate that the game was played in Tampa Bay where fans aren’t nearly as excitable as those in say Philadelphia or New York City. It’ll be a point of contention raised by Lightning fans from here on out but one likely to be quickly forgotten, right or wrong, from now on.

3. After everything that went down in Game 7 and with how tight these two teams were all series and all season long, it came down to one play to decide the game. One poor defensive breakdown by Tampa Bay on what appeared to be a set play by the Bruins to get Nathan Horton motoring and going full speed toward the net worked. David Krejci gets the puck at the half-boards and draws the attention of two Lightning defenders opening up the slot where Horton cruised through untouched until too late getting a perfect pass from Krejci. It’s a thing of beauty for Boston to have a play work that way and for Tampa Bay, it’s going to be a very painful replay to watch. One mistake and it turns the series. It’s incredible that this series turned out to be just that close.

4. Let’s give it up for Dwayne Roloson. He’s 41 years-old, he played like crap through most of the series against Boston, sat out of Game 5 in favor of Mike Smith to get a breather, and then played the game of his life in Game 7. Roloson stopped 37 shots in the Game 7 loss, his first loss in an elimination game in his career, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He had numerous highlight reel saves and frustrated Bruins scorers all night long. If not for that aforementioned mistake that game might still be going on now.

While we don’t know what Roloson’s future holds for him, he’s quietly had a very solid playoff career. From Minnesota, to Edmonton, now to Tampa Bay he’s had just a fantastic career as a guy who gets stuff done in the playoffs. No Stanley Cup wins will certainly hurt how people look at him overall, but what a gamer.

5. Now the Bruins’ real test lays ahead of them in the form of Vancouver, and a very well rested Canucks team by the time both teams drop the puck for Game 1 on Wednesday. The instant snap judgment on the series is that the Canucks are going to be licking their chops to get after the Bruins. Add in the possibility that Manny Malhotra could be healthy enough to suit up for them and things stack up tall against Boston.

Of course, there’s a reason they play the games and while Bruins fans have been waiting all playoffs long for Milan Lucic to snap out of things, him getting to suit up for a potential seven game series against his hometown team (Lucic is from Vancouver) should be enough to light a forest fire underneath him. Boston hasn’t had to deal with a team as deep nor as talented all around as Vancouver yet. It will be fascinating to see in action.

Sens win, but empty seats get the attention

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All the talk in Ottawa today should be about the Senators’ big win over the Rangers.

Instead, the city’s playoff excitement has been hijacked by a familiar topic — attendance woes.

A crowd of just 16,744 was announced at Canadian Tire Centre last night. Pictures of empty seats were all over social media. It had to be embarrassing for the home team, not to mention its combustible owner.

Read more: Plenty of tickets available for Game 1 in Ottawa

There are plenty of theories that attempt to explain the poor attendance. The suburban arena gets blamed a lot, and it’s true that the location is quite inconvenient. Some say the defensive style that coach Guy Boucher employs does not make for an entertaining enough product.

Here’s Sens reporter Ian Mendes with his take for TSN.ca:

The truth of the matter is that Ottawa simply doesn’t have a big enough season ticket base. Though the club never publicly discloses how many season tickets they have sold, it stands to reason that the number is well under 10,000. That means on a nightly basis, the Senators have to drum up enough walk-up sales to fill at least half their building – which is located well outside of the downtown core.

A better crowd is expected Saturday afternoon for Game 2.

But there are still tickets available.

Related: Poor attendance an early story in Ottawa

Preds proving preseason hype was warranted

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They were a trendy pick to win the Stanley Cup.

And then the season started.

The Nashville Predators never really got rolling during their 82-game schedule. They’d have some good stretches, followed by some bad stretches. They ended up as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Most predicted they’d lose to Chicago in the first round.

Of course, most were wrong. The Preds swept the Blackhawks, and now they’re up 1-0 on the Blues in the second round.

“We come in, we’re supposed to be this awesome, amazing team and we didn’t start so hot,” d-man Ryan Ellis said, per NHL.com. “We started to get better, and then some injuries crept into our locker room. We battled the whole year, losing guys at various times in the year and some younger guys stepped up. But overall, it’s adversity that makes you stronger. This was one of those years we faced a lot of adversity.”

A quick glance at Nashville’s roster and it’s not hard to understand the preseason hype. The Predators have a No. 1 center in Ryan Johansen, a tremendous goal-scorer in Filip Forsberg, and one of the more underrated wingers in the league in Viktor Arvidsson.

But the real jewel is their blue line. Roman Josi is the No. 1 defenseman. He’s paired with Ellis, a former 11th overall draft pick. On the second pair is a former Norris Trophy winner, P.K. Subban, who skates with the dependable Mattias Ekholm.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better top four than that. And to think, the Preds also had Seth Jones, until they traded him to Columbus for Johansen.

The wild card heading into the playoffs was Pekka Rinne, the 34-year-old goalie who was spectacularly inconsistent during the regular season. He had a .949 save percentage in November, followed by an .875 in December. It was .933 in January, down to .888 in February, then back up to .923 in March.

So far this postseason, it’s .962.

Tonight in St. Louis, the Preds can make it six straight wins in the playoffs. More importantly, they can take a 2-0 lead over the Blues back to Nashville.

“Throughout the year, I think we’re a little bit inconsistent,” winger Colin Wilson told reporters. “But when we played our game, we were always unstoppable. We have a lot of talent, great D, great goaltending, all-around strong team with a lot of depth.”

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Rangers won’t let Drury interview for Sabres GM gig

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As a former player and well-regarded young executive, there was a fit for Chris Drury in Buffalo’s front office.

Of course, there’s the exact same fit with the Rangers.

That’s why today’s news can’t come as a huge surprise. Per Sportsnet and TSN, New York has turned down Buffalo’s request to interview Drury for its vacant general manager gig.

Drury, 40, has spent the last two years climbing the Rangers’ executive depth chart. He was brought aboard in 2015 as the club’s director of player development and, a year later, was promoted to assistant GM under Jeff Gorton.

The Rangers aren’t the only ones enamored by Drury’s front office skills. Recently, USA Hockey tabbed him — along with Bill Guerin — as the braintrust responsible for building Team USA’s entry in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

As mentioned above, it was easy to see why the Sabres were interested. Drury played three seasons in Buffalo, served as team captain, and the club appears primed to make a splash with its next hire after dismissing Tim Murray.

Drury, of course, spent four seasons with the Rangers and also wore the “C.”

Should Erik Karlsson’s game-winning goal have counted?

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We’re only one game into the Sens-Rangers series, and we already have a little bit of controversy.

Ottawa won Game 1, 2-1, thanks to Erik Karlsson‘s game-winning goal from a seemingly impossible angle (seriously, he scored from the corner).

But should it have counted?

There’s no issue with the Karlsson shot going off Henrik Lundqvist‘s mask and in, but the Rangers felt that the referees missed an icing call moments before the goal happened.

Karlsson is standing near his own blue line when he sends a pass in Jean-Gabriel Pageau‘s direction. Did Pageau get a piece of it? It’s hard to tell from the angles we have at our disposal, but Alain Vigneault seemed to have had a good look at the play.

“We felt on their game-winning goal it should have been icing,” Vigneault said, per Sportsnet. “When we look at it, and look at the angles we get, I think it should have been icing. But at the end of the game you gotta play and you gotta do more than we did tonight to win.”

Challenging icing calls isn’t permitted, so when the officials decided that Pageau touched the puck, there’s nothing more the Rangers could do to reverse the call (except get the puck out of the zone when they had the chance).