Playoffs Tonight: Tale of Two Game 7s

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It’s the final day of the first round and two series are still undecided.

Before we take a look at them, please keep in mind that you can watch both of these games online in addition to the channels listed below:

Game 7: Boston Bruins host Toronto Maple Leafs (7:00 p.m. ET, CNBC)
Series tied at 3-3

For the Toronto Maple Leafs, simply making the playoffs was an accomplishment that many didn’t think they would achieve this season. They did anyways and when the Leafs fell behind in this series 3-1, Toronto showed that neither the pressure nor a sense of contentment would stop them.

Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer has proven that he can handle himself in the playoffs despite no prior postseason experience. Meanwhile, forward Phil Kessel has been a hero against his former team, the Boston Bruins, despite his prior struggles versus the club.

That being said, the Boston Bruins aren’t about to roll over either. Many of the Bruins’ key players were around when they blew a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 and although this collapse isn’t on that level, there will likely be plenty of desperation on their side to avoid a similar fate.

The player to watch on the Boston Bruins’ end is Tyler Seguin. He’s typically one of their most effective offensive weapons, but he doesn’t have a point in this series.

Game 7: Washington Capitals host New York Rangers (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Series tied at 3-3

This is the fourth time in five years that these two teams have met in the playoffs and the third time in that span that they’ve needed the full seven games to settle their differences. In 2009, Washington took Game 7 and last year, the New York Rangers edged past the Capitals.

Just as it was a year ago, Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist have been leaders for their respective teams. However, one of them will obviously surrender at least one more goal and it will be interesting to see if either team’s biggest stars will step up for this deciding contest.

Rick Nash has just one assist in this series while Alex Ovechkin has no points and a minus-three rating in his last four contests. Additionally, Rangers forward Brad Richards has just one goal and no points in the playoffs.

Among those three, Richards is the one that has struggled the most in this series. Richards started Game 6 on the fourth line and logged just 9:34 minutes in that contest.

Canucks’ Horvat out a week with upper-body injury

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The Canucks will resume their preseason schedule on Thursday, although it appears right now that Bo Horvat will likely not be in the lineup.

Just prior to puck drop against the L.A. Kings on Saturday, the Canucks announced that Horvat is expected to be out a week with an upper-body injury.

Per Dan Murphy of Sportsnet, the injury occurred on a hit from Drew Doughty during the first game of the two-game exhibition series between the Canucks and Kings in China.

The good news for the Canucks is that their regular season schedule begins on Oct. 7, which would give Horvat two weeks to get fully healthy and ready for the opener against Connor McDavid and the Oilers.

The 22-year-old Horvat enjoyed a 20-goal, 52-point season in 2016-17, emerging as the team’s leading scorer and one of the few bright spots during another disappointing season for the Canucks. As a result, he signed a six-year, $33 million contract extension earlier this month.

Related: Horvat believes he is ‘just scratching the surface’

Report: NHL has already made adjustment on slashing, faceoff calls

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The NHL preseason began with the league trying to crackdown on slashing and faceoff violations.

The early results were a lot of confusion, a ton of penalties, and a lot of griping from players, former referees and media about the confusion and the number of penalties.

Former NHL referee Paul Stewart griped on Twitter that it was taking away from the officials ability to call a game by feel and hockey sense. The Winnipeg Jets brought in retired referee Paul Devorski to work with their players in an effort to help them gain an understanding of what the league was looking for and to cut down on penalties.

It was obvious that something was going to have to give.

Either the players would have to adjust to the new standard implemented by the league, or the league would make its own adjustment and scale things back a bit.

In most matters like this in the NHL, it usually tends to be the latter.

That also seems to be the case here as Sportsnet’s John Shannon Tweeted on Saturday morning that the league has already sent a note to its officials to “dial it back” a bit when it comes slashing and faceoff violation calls.

Well, that was fast.

The enforcement of the faceoff rule seemed like a minor thing that really wasn’t going to make much of a difference, but the emphasis on slashing is one that needs to be kept (and extended to interference, holding, hooking or any other sort of obstruction), especially given the way some of the league’s star players are defended where slashing down on their hands or stick seems to be the preferred way of playing them. Not only from a player safety standpoint to help reduce injuries (getting hit with a stick can break bones … or fingers) but because the drop in power plays over the past decade (the “let them play” mindset) has been one of the many factors in the continued decline in goal scoring across the league.

If the NHL is serious about changing this stuff the onus needs to be on the players to adjust, not the officials. Set the standard. Call it consistently. The players will figure out what they can and can not do.

Anything less than that basically just amounts to the league saying, “hey guys, we would really like you to cut down on the slashes” and hoping that the players listen. But as long as they can get away with it, they will not listen.

Capitals’ Tom Wilson has a discipline hearing today for interference

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The NHL’s department of player safety announced on Saturday morning that it has scheduled a disciplinary hearing with Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson as a result of his late hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas on Friday night.

It will be the first hearing for the department under the direction of its new leader, George Parros.

This particular incident happened early in the third period of the Blues’ 4-0 win on Friday night.

Here is a look at the entire sequence, including the fight that Wilson found himself in with Dmitri Jaskin in response to the hit.

It is clear that Wilson delivered his hit long after Thomas was in possession of the puck.

Even though Wilson always seems to be getting attention for some of his hits and physical play he has never been suspended in his career. His only punishment from the league has been in the form of two fines — one for diving/embellishment, and another for kneeing Pittsburgh Penguins forward Conor Sheary during the 2015-16 playoffs.

The fact that he has a hearing for his hit would seem to indicate a suspension might be on the horizon. The only question is whether or not it will just end his preseason (the Capitals still have four more games) or if it will carry over into the regular season.

Antti Niemi had to make a save with his bare hand

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Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.

The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.

Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”

You can watch the play by clicking here.

Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.

The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.