Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins – MTL wins 3-1, MTL wins series 4-3
The most intense rivalry in hockey would reach its climax with another Game 7. There are a myriad of storylines to focus on here: Carey Price vs Tuukka Rask, Boston’s comeback ability they’ve already shown this series; Montreal’s depth (or lack thereof) on defense. There were two players I really wanted to focus on though.
P.K. Subban made comments after Game 6 that he (paraphrased) wanted to take all the energy away from the Boston fans in Game 7. He had six points in the first three games of this series and one in the next three. He doesn’t necessarily have to rake on the scoreboard but should Montreal get power play opportunities, it’ll be up to him to help Montreal make the most of them.
Zdeno Chara has been his usual dominant self defensively so far through the first six games of this series – four of six games above 60-percent CorsiFor and just one below 55-percent – but the Canadiens had spread the scoring throughout their lineup. He could shut down one line, sure, but to really have an impact in a one game winner-take-all, he might have to get on the score sheet for them.
Through 40 minutes, neither Chara nor Subban had points on the three goals that had been scored. Chara, though, had an indirect impact on Montreal’s second goal. That goal, created off a turnover/scramble between the top of the circles and blue line in the Boston zone, to that point, was only Max Pacioretty’s second even strength shift away from Chara to that point. Chara hadn’t been playing particularly well that this point in the game but he had at least managed to contain Montreal’s top line. It only took two shifts away from Chara for Pacioretty and company to get on the board.
There was definitely something up with Chara in this game, as he finished with a 47.1-percent CorsiFor rating, the lowest among any Bruins defenseman (though he and Dougie Hamilton were the only Boston defensemen not on the ice for a goal against). Subban was not exceptional, either, with a 41.7-percent CorsiFor.
As it happens frequently in the playoffs, this one ended up being about goaltending as Carey Price stopped 29 of 30 shots.
Anaheim Ducks at Los Angeles Kings – LAK wins 2-1, Series tied 3-3
The Battle of California (sorry, Sharks fans) would have its first elimination game tonight. While facing elimination games was nothing new to Los Angeles (again, sorry, Sharks fans), they had an obstacle in front of them in the form of rookie goaltender John Gibson. If the Kings lived to see another day, they would have to get through the goalie who had stopped 83 of 87 shots so far these playoffs. In order for them to get through Gibson, they’d likely need a big game from the two forwards that had carried them for much of the playoffs in Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik. More so Kopitar, as he had zero goals this series (mostly assists, thanks to Gaborik).
It wouldn’t take long for Gaborik, Kopitar and Gibson to have an impact on Game 6. Just past eight minutes in the first period, a beautiful backhand pass from Kopitar would find a pinching Jake Muzzin, who redirected it past Gibson for the 1-0 lead. Gaborik would pick up the second assist on the goal.
Trevor Lewis would make it 2-0 for the Kings as a wrist shot from the top of the circles on a 1-on-1 snuck through Gibson’s legs and in. It was really the first time these playoffs the Anaheim rookie looked shaky at all.
Besides setting up the first goal, Gaborik and Kopitar were both 66.7-percent possession-wise at 5-on-5 through 40 minutes. Seven of Kopitar’s 16 even strength shifts were against the top line of Anaheim featuring Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
The game would end at 2-1 with the squeaker goal that Gibson gave up to Lewis standing as the game-winner. In a 7-game series with two pretty evenly-matched teams, one soft goal can mean the difference. Jonathan Quick played well at the other end of the rink, saving 21 of 22 shots, and it shows just how small the margins of error are at this time of the season.
Gaborik and Kopitar finished the game at the bottom of the possession stats for Los Angeles (but over 50-percent overall) after not a particularly strong third period. In fact, Los Angeles Coach Darryl Sutter left them off the ice for the final 2:16 of the game in favour of Jarret Stoll, Trevor Lewis, and Dwight King.