The Western Conference series were all pretty one-sided, but the east will provide us with three Game 7s over the next two days. Which begs the question: which one are you looking forward to the most? Here’s a quick preview of each game:
The New York Rangers vs the Ottawa Senators – This looked like the most lopsided series going into the playoffs. It was an accomplishment for the Senators to even make it to the first round and after Daniel Alfredsson suffered a concussion in Game 2, things looked even grimmer for Ottawa. Still, the Senators have matched the Rangers blow-for-blow in this series and it’s entirely possible that neither of the first seeds will survive the opening round.
The Boston Bruins vs the Washington Capitals – Goaltender Braden Holtby has really made himself the story of this series. He had almost no NHL experience going into the playoffs and was only starting because of injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth. However, Holtby has risen to the occasion and has looked just as good or better than Tim Thomas. The question now is if he can steal one more game for the Capitals or if the defending champion Bruins will extend their season.
The Florida Panthers vs the New Jersey Devils – No matter what happens in Game 7, we’re going to see a team advance to the second round for the first time in years. Of course, for Florida the wait has been much longer. Until this season, the Panthers hadn’t even made the playoffs since 2000. Depending on the outcome of this game, we might be getting out last glimpse of Zach Parise in a Devils’ uniform and Martin Brodeur.
As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.
Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.
Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.
That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.
Stamkos' surgeon, Karl Illig, told the Times, his risks are "very, very low," decision up to Stamkos. "I think he's doing the right thing."
It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.
To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.
As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.
“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”
No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.
Parise rehabbing back injury without surgery, ‘no question’ he’ll play in World Cup