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

3 Comments

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?

The Buzzer: Josi’s island; Bob robs Vegas

Getty
Leave a comment

Three Stars

1. Roman Josi

There was some exciting hockey on Monday, yet there weren’t a ton of performances where players put up gaudy numbers.

Oddly, the only two skaters who generated at least three points were both part of a losing effort for the Predators. Josi stands far above Ryan Johansen from an all-around standpoint, which is why he’s also standing above the Preds center in these three stars.

Josi generated two goals and one assist in helping Nashville salvage a standings point after the Predators dug themselves a 3-0 hole against the Senators. Josi fired six shots on goal and logged 23:54 in ice time in that loss.

The Swiss-born defenseman has been coming up big for a Predators team that’s dealing with all kinds of injury headaches, including to other go-to guys like P.K. Subban and Filip Forsberg. Don’t be surprised if Josi generates some Norris buzz if he keeps this up, as he has 26 points in 34 games.

2. Sergei Bobrovsky

Monday saw some strong goalie performances. Jaroslav Halak blanked his old team as Boston crushed Montreal, only needing to make 22 saves for a shutout. Thomas Greiss didn’t shut out the Avalanche, yet he kept Mikko Rantanen off the board, which should at least earn him a Kindergarten-style gold star.

But “Bob” might have had the best night of any goalie.

Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots for his first shutout of 2018-19. It’s been a bumpy contract year for the Blue Jackets goalie, as you can see from his poor .905 save percentage. Don’t count him out, though, especially since Columbus has been able to maintain a playoff position even without Bobrovsky authoring his usual regular-season heroics.

3. Ryan Johansen

Honestly, this feels like the quintessential Ryan Johansen game.

There was the very good: Johansen managed three assists, factoring into all of Nashville’s goals. It’s been a strong season for Johansen, who’s generated 29 points in 34 games, even if his offense has cooled off with Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson on the shelf.

If there’s one thing that’s maddening about Johansen, it’s that he shoots so infrequently, so it’s fitting that he had zero SOG on Monday, even with the Predators chasing the Senators for much of the contest. Johansen now only has 55 SOG in 34 games in 2018-19, which seems almost unthinkable for a top-line forward.

But, hey, it’s mostly working, so this is probably closer to nitpicking than a more profound critique. Probably?

Highlights

Chances are, more people will bug Johansen about him giving up the puck on Thomas Chabot‘s pretty OT game-winner, though:

Since Dec. 12, Bryan Rust has a hat trick, six points in four games overall, and also provided a goaltending audition.

Factoids

You may call these Ducks plucky.

Nice fodder for Senators GM Pierre Dorion, who recently said that their rebuild might be ahead of schedule:

Another reminder that Halak was a Hab:

Scores

ANA 4 – PIT 2
CBJ 1 – VGK 0
BOS 4 – MTL 0
OTT 4 – NSH 3 (OT)
NYI 4 – COL 1

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Should Ian Cole be suspended for kneeing Brock Nelson?

1 Comment

On paper, Monday was an excellent night for Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders.

The Islanders topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-1, keeping the Avs’ scorching-hot top line mostly in check. Nathan MacKinnon grabbed an assist on Gabriel Landeskog‘s power-play goal, but Mikko Rantanen was held pointless for the first time in ages. Also, with the Pittsburgh Penguins falling to the Ducks in regulation, the Isles regained control of the third spot in the Metropolitan Division.

So, the Islanders mostly contained the NHL’s hottest scoring line, and with this win, would be in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs if they began right now.

It wasn’t all good news, though.

Two injuries hang over this win, and one brings potential controversy. As you can see in the video above this post’s headline, Avs defenseman Ian Cole seemingly engaged in a knee-to-knee hit on Isles forward Brock Nelson. Cole received a kneeing minor on the play.

Also, in attempting to deliver a hit, Thomas Hickey fell awkwardly, and eventually needed to be helped off of the ice.

Following the game, Trotz didn’t have much of an update, as Newsday’s Andrew Gross reports:

Hickey came into Monday’s game averaging 19:14 TOI per contest, a career-high, so it was clear that he was earning Trotz’s trust. Nelson broke a four-game pointless streak with an assist in this win, giving him 21 points in 32 games, good for fourth on the team in scoring. So these situations are worrisome for an Islanders team that’s vastly surpassing expectations.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Pacioretty injured in Golden Knights’ shutout loss

Getty
1 Comment

The Vegas Golden Knights have been gathering momentum lately, but Monday was not kind to them.

Malcolm Subban‘s solid night wasn’t enough, as the Golden Knights couldn’t score a single goal against Sergei Bobrovsky, falling via a 1-0 shutout loss.

Monday could end up being costly beyond what must have been a frustrating score, as Max Pacioretty appeared to suffer a knee injury during the defeat. (Click here for a GIF of the leg injury.)

Pacioretty wasn’t able to return to Vegas’ loss. After the loss, Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said more information could be known by Tuesday.

Pacioretty was already dealing with a different lower-body ailment amid confusion about an earlier unhealthy/healthy scratch, so “Patches” might need to rev up that “Wolverine”-style healing ability if he wants to get back into action soon.

There was some fear that Colin Miller might have suffered a knee issue of his own, but he was able to play as the game went along, so at least Vegas might have dodged that bullet. Maybe.

The Blue Jackets managed this regulation win, even with Artemi Panarin out of the lineup. Maybe it wasn’t always pretty, but they’re likely feeling better than the Golden Knights right now.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Unlikely fight: Bobby Ryan vs. Kyle Turris

2 Comments

File this Monday fight under “unexpected,” as Nashville Predators center Kyle Turris dropped the gloves with Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators.

Turris was once Ryan’s teammate with the Sens, but it’s unclear if that had anything to do with it. Either way, when you consider the players involved, this was a fairly passionate bout.

It looked like Ryan got the best of Turris, at one point seemingly leaving Turris dazed.

Via Hockey Fights, it’s been quite a while for Ryan, in particular, as his last fight happened against Kris Russell in March of the 2013-14 season.

Turris, meanwhile, has seen quite a remarkable array of opponents, ranging from Tanner Glass to Marc-Edouard Vlasic, with current teammate P.K. Subban also included.

After falling behind 3-0, the Predators were able to secure a standings point by sending the game to OT at 3-3. The Senators got the last laugh, however, as Thomas Chabot scored this beautiful overtime game-winner:

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.