Tag: game previews

Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins

Your Tampa Bay Lightning-Boston Bruins Game 1 primer

Fans of hockey as a whole haven’t had a big lull between games (the San Jose Sharks beat the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 on Thursday). Yet partisans who only care about the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning have had to wait an almost excruciating amount of time. The Bruins wrapped up their series on May 6 while the Bolts finished off the Capitals on the 4th.

Maybe that’s a reasonable amount of off-time for an NFL team, but hockey clubs aren’t really used to such gaps. Especially when you consider the fact that the Lightning and Bruins’ first round series were seven-game marathons, allowing them to maintain momentum into the semifinals.

Game 1: Tampa Bay @ Boston (Versus) – 8 p.m. ET

While the Lightning expect to get Simon Gagne back after missing most of their four-game sweep of the Capitals, the Bruins must find a way to succeed despite Patrice Bergeron’s absence. Sure, Boston coped with the loss of another prominent center (Marc Savard) all season, but Bergeron is a more balanced player than Savard. They will absolutely miss his two-way play.

The question is: will that absence really matter? The Bruins went 3-1 against the Lightning during the regular season, outscoring them 15-8. The B’s have home ice advantage and were a stronger season in many categories, although the Bolts have a clear advantage on special teams in the playoffs.

The Lightning got here thanks to outstanding goaltending by Dwayne Roloson and timely scoring from stars like Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos along with support players such as Steve Downie and Sean Bergenheim. The Bruins survived a tough series against the Montreal Canadiens before flattening the Philadelphia Flyers. Their own offensive depth was especially apparent against Philly, while Tim Thomas was brilliant in both rounds.

Gagne is the biggest beneficiary of the time off for Tampa Bay, but Zdeno Chara might just be the happiest in Boston. He dealt with some issues in the first round, so more than a week off means that the big-minute, larger than life defenseman should be nice and hydrated for Round 3.

Let’s take a look at the other PHT content regarding the two teams.

Hopefully those posts will get you primed and ready for the Eastern Conference finals. It should be an intriguing series to watch.

Simon Gagne will reportedly play tonight, Patrice Bergeron skates

Simon Gagne

There was a sick kind of symmetry to the dual head injuries suffered by Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron and Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Simon Gagne. To be honest, I’ve always thought of the two as parallel stories anyway. Both Bergeron and Gagne nearly saw their careers fall apart because of concussions, yet each player seemed like light at the end of the tunnel recovery examples for sufferers around the league.

Unfortunately, each player saw their problems rear their ugly heads again during the playoffs, as Gagne was sidelined thanks to a Scott Hannan hit while Bergeron suffered a “mild concussion” thanks to a collision with Claude Giroux.

There’s at least one big difference between the two situations: the passage of time. Gagne suffered his injury about a week before Bergeron dealt with his, so maybe today’s notes shouldn’t be too surprising.

Damian Cristodero reports that Guy Boucher will go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, with Gagne in the lineup while Blair Jones will be out. (Raise your hand if you even noticed Jones in the lineup before. Hey, don’t lie.) The Lightning have been using Marc-Andre Bergeron as a seventh defenseman/forward, which kind of makes sense since the offensive blueliner isn’t exactly known for his play in his own zone anyway.

The Bruins will get big defenseman Adam McQuaid back in the lineup, but Patrice Bergeron won’t be back yet. Boston’s Bergeron did, however, participate in a “light skate” according to Joe Haggerty. The two-way center reportedly got “a little bit of a sweat going” and could be on track to return by Game 5 (barring any setbacks), according to Haggerty’s report.

Both the Bruins and Lightning experienced unusually large layoffs between their second round matches and this third round series. We’ve already seen the benefit in the form of Gagne’s expected comeback, but we’ll learn more about how the rest vs. rust quotient works out for each team on the ice tonight (on Versus at 8 p.m. ET).

Your one-stop source for Sharks-Red Wings Game 7 content

Pavel Datsyuk, Torrey Mitchell

In just a few hours*, the Vancouver Canucks will know their Western Conference finals opponents. If the San Jose Sharks make it, the two teams can give each other a knowing nod about nearly coughing up a 3-0 series lead. Conversely, if the Detroit Red Wings end up winning, they would be just the fourth team in NHL history to pull off such a feat.

While a lot of things are up in the air, we know a few things about tonight’s game. Barring unforeseen injuries, Jimmy Howard and Antti Niemi will be in net. The star-crossed Sharks crowd will probably have a lot of nervous energy. Many sportswriters will make judgments about the San Jose franchise, especially in defeat.

The biggest concrete question revolves around the statuses of Ryane Clowe and Johan Franzen. Both remain game-time decisions, but we’ll let you know if that changes anytime soon.

Detroit @ San Jose (Versus) – 9 p.m. ET; Series tied at 3-3

At this point, you’re probably aware of all the pressure resting squarely on the Sharks’ shoulders. Any team in this position would be under pressure, but considering the time-honored tradition of labeling San Jose “chokers,” this game might mean even more for this franchise. It might not be fair, but people could very well lose their jobs if they end up on the wrong side of the handshake line tonight.

That’s not to say that the Red Wings aren’t facing pressure either, though. Not everyone on the team is past their primes, but this team is a bit on the older side, so some might wonder how many chances this core group has left.

If this series’ previous six games are any indication, we should be in for a dramatic and closely fought game. The one definite group of winners is fans of the game as a whole.

In case you haven’t been keeping up with PHT content on this game, here’s a quick rundown of some of the previews and other information regarding Game 7:

Want some other “bigger picture” stories about the Red Wings and Sharks? Check these posts out.

If those posts don’t cover enough bases for you, don’t worry. Versus will air a special one-hour preview for tonight’s Game 7 beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Enjoy tonight’s contest and remember, hockey fans: it’s OK if you must bite your nails, but stop if your fingers start to bleed.

* Unless this game turns out to be an epic multiple overtime affair, which would mean it would instead take several hours …

The greatest Game 7 heroes in NHL history (and who might become one tonight)

Pavel Datsyuk, Joe Pavelski

A lot of people think that it’s unfair that the playoffs can make or break players’ legacies. It’s reasonable to feel uncomfortable about that since the sample size is so small, but there’s no doubt that lasting memories are made when everyone can focus on one game. The fact that tonight’s Detroit Red Wings-San Jose Sharks match is a Game 7 only intensifies that scrutiny.

The fact that Game 7s are still technically one game means that lesser known players can often steal the spotlight. Maxime Talbot scored two goals against the Red Wings in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals to win the Pittsburgh Penguins’ third championship. Mike Rupp came out of nowhere to score the game-winning goal and two other assists in the New Jersey Devils’ most recent Cup win. Ruslan Fedotenko scored two goals to help the Tampa Bay Lightning win their only Cup in a similarly surprising fashion.

Still, when The Hockey News named its top 10 all-time Game 7 performances, most of the biggest games were provided by the biggest names. Perhaps it only makes sense that the sport’s most famous star also happened to top the list of performers in the league’s highest profile games:

3. Mark Messier, Rangers, 1994

The Rangers captain famously guaranteed a win against New Jersey in the Eastern Conference final, then followed that up with the Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 7 against Vancouver.

2. Ron Hextall, Philadelphia, 1987

It’s rare to see the Conn Smythe Trophy given to a member of the losing team, but that’s what happened to Hextall in Philly’s Cup final series loss to the Oilers. Hextall made 40 saves in a losing cause in the Flyers’ Game 7, 3-1 loss and was spectacular throughout the series.

1. Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles, 1993

During the Campbell Conference final between Toronto and the Kings, Gretzky put up arguably the best single-game showing of his unrivaled career, recording a hat trick and virtually willing L.A. to victory over a plucky, Doug Gilmour-led Leafs squad.

(If you here some rumbling from Toronto, their words might sound like “high-stick!”)

NHL.com provides its list of three unlikely heroes from each side, but I thought I might throw out a few more anticipated names who might come through for their teams.

Most likely Detroit heroes

Nicklas Lidstrom – He leads the Red Wings in points in Game 7s and factored into some of the team’s most important goals in this series already. Most signs indicate he should be back to play next season, but if he has doubts, he’ll obviously want to keep this run alive.

Pavel Datsyuk – Despite shrugging off an injured wrist, the all-world forward is still an irresistible force.

Henrik Zetterberg – He’s often overshadowed by Datsyuk, but Zetterberg is a dynamic two-way player in his own right and was the team’s top regular season scorer with 80 points.

Niklas Kronwall – Kronwall is showing signs of returning to the form that made him seem like the “next big thing” on the Detroit blueline a couple years ago. He gets most of his attention from those bone-crushing checks, but Kronwall can score points too.

Most likely San Jose heroes

Devin Setoguchi – He scored the OT-winner to clinch the Sharks’ historic comeback against the Kings and already has an OT winner against the Red Wings in this series. This would solidify the belief that he’s a thorn in Detroit’s side.

Joe Thornton – Jumbo Joe already has a playoff series-clinching goal this year. Would another one turn his critics’ volume down that much more?

Joe Pavelski – “The Big Pavelski” has been gold in the last two postseasons for San Jose.

Dan Boyle – The Sharks’ greatest weapon from the blueline has a Stanley Cup ring on his resume and plenty of scoring ability.


Of course, the Hollywood ending would involve Patrick Marleau either coming up huge for his team or blowing the game in a tragic way. We’ll see what happens tonight, but in the mean time: who do you think will be the biggest difference-maker?

Red Wings hold significant Game 7 experience advantage over Sharks

Nicklas Lidstrom

All that really matters is what happens tonight – not what happened in the previous six games, not anymore, at least – but there’s no denying that the Detroit Red Wings hold some advantages over the San Jose Sharks.

One is the looseness that comes with not having to worry about being on the wrong side of history. The other is another kind of history: Red Wings players have almost twice as much Game 7 experience as the Sharks. In fact, according to an NHL.com report, every Red Wings player has some Game 7 experience.

It shouldn’t be too surprising, really, considering Detroit’s 20-year run of playoff appearances (with many of them running deep). While 11 Sharks players have played in a Game 7 before, 21 Red Wings have been in this situation.* Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is 2-2 in his coaching career in Game 7s while Sharks coach Todd McLellan is 0-0.

Perhaps most telling is the Game 7 scoring statistics. Nicklas Lidstrom leads Detroit with seven points in Game 7 situations with two goals and five assists while Niclas Wallin is the Sharks’ most experienced player in Game 7s, having played in four in his career. San Jose’s Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi managed to accomplish that feat without playing a single Game 7.

Here’s a bit more from NHL.com.

Scoring in Game 7s is no different. The Red Wings have scored 17 goals and 39 points in their plethora of Game 7s, while the Sharks have tallied just 3 goals and 4 points in their 11. Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard also has one Game 7 to his credit, beating the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round last season, while neither San Jose goalie — Antti Niemi or backup Antero Niittymaki — has played in an NHL Game 7.

This will be Mike Modano’s first Game 7 with Detroit, but he’s played in plenty of them during his lengthy and impressive career with the Dallas Stars.

“The nerves are very high, obviously,” he said. “You just want to be quick, you want to be precise in what you do, you want to be very direct in your play as far as with the puck and without it. Ultimately you want to skate, you want to relax and take the plays that are there and not force the issue, especially on the road. I’ve never been in one on the road, so it’s just about playing smart.”

It’s also about enjoying the moment and the nail-biting that comes with it.

“Those Game 7s have a lot of drama,” Modano said. “Every shot, every save and everything that happens out there is magnified.”

Almost every playoff game brings its unique excitements, but few things match the scale and suspense of Game 7. We’ll keep you informed and entertained right up until the first nail-biting puck drop (and beyond).

* – Well, not this exact situation, since the Red Wings have never come back from a 3-0 deficit before.