Nothing beats a partial Habs GDT on a Toronto Maple Leafs fansite, right? To get more in line with the general sentiments of everyone here and making sure the glass is half full, or at least not half empty (one quarter empty) letâ€™s just call this a Â¼ Boston GDT. Sure, we might dislike Seguin and an certain draft pick, but for a Leafs fan desperate for playoff hockey, thereâ€™s always Kaberle to cheer for. The Hot Stove will also be looking at Vancouverâ€™s possible exit from the playoffs in what I like to call â€œChaos in Paradiseâ€.
CHICAGO @ VANCOUVER â€“ Game 7
The most talked about game in the most talked about series in this yearâ€™s playoffs and beyond. Vancouver came out firing. 3-0 lead in the series while playing a controlled game, excellent high pinches by the defense, good energy, physical game and somewhat solid goaltending from their franchise goalie, especially in game 1. Then, Raffi Torres happened. Legal hit or blindside hit to the head, it really doesnâ€™t make that much difference now. Everything changed.
Brent Seabrook made a quick return and there seems to be a general consensus that Jonathan Toews and the Hawks team rallied around Seabrookâ€™s injury and put some fire in their game. They were groggy entering the series, almost like they felt that after that Detroit loss in their last regular season game they didnâ€™t belong. It was also a case of playing a ridiculous amount of hockey during the last two years. A deep run in 2008-2009 reaching the Conference Finals, winners last year, it was also a lineup featuring a good number of gold medal and silver medal Olympians. Same can be said about the Canucks but their hunger for the Cup was expected to be greater. However, the Blackhawks showed why they are the reigning Stanley Cup champions and gave themselves a chance to become only the 4th team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 deficit, be it only after a little incentive.
Iâ€™d argue that this just might be the most important game in Canucks history. Sure, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on June 14th, 1994 in Madison Square Garden is right up there but hear me out. The two Stanley Cup Finals Vancouver teams werenâ€™t expected to win the Cup. Now, fast forward to the present. 40th anniversary season, Presidentâ€™s Trophy season, Division Championship, most points in the Western Conference. Â The team that set several franchise records during the season; Vancouver’s win against the Minnesota Wild on March 14, 2011 had given them 101 points in the standings, the fastest they have reached the 100-point mark in an NHL season. On March 27, 2011, the team recorded its 50th victory of the season for the first time in franchise history with a 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Not to mention the most complete roster roster in the NHL featuring the most hyped up goalie in recent history, back to back Art Ross Trophy winning brothers, a stacked defense and fantastic team depth.
With all that going for them, they could just end up as being known as the team that blew it. 4th team in history to blow it. This is why a loss tonight could strike a blow not just to this current team, but the the franchise in general, labeling them as losers. What else do you call a franchise with a repeating history of not playing their best when it matters most? On the other hand, if in fact they do win the game, the NHL should pay close attention because with all the demons exercised and adversity conquered the Canucks become Cup favorites once again.
Duncan Keith â€“ the reigning Norris Trophy holder has produced the kind of form that claimed him the trophy in the first place. He has 6 points in the series including 4 goals.
Dave Bolland â€“ coincidence or not, Chicagoâ€™s fighting spirit came back with his insertion in the lineup. As pesky as ever, the â€œRatâ€ has an astounding 6 points in only 3 games played. He is like the Sedin kryptonite.
The Sedin brothers â€“ they say that in big games, your best players need to be your best players and thereâ€™s no bigger game than Game 7. With a C and A on their chests, the brothers are counted on for more than just dazzling plays.
Roberto Luongo â€“ Simply put, a career defining game for the man known as Bobby Lou. Not only him, but Mike Gillis who made him the exception to his own contract length rule. After this one, heâ€™ll either become the kind of goalie he should have been by now judging by the hype surrounding him, or a kind of contract that drags franchises down faster than a sinking ship.
BRUINS @ CANADIENS â€“ Game 6
Boston is standing on the neck of what is fast becoming to be known as one of the most resilient teams in recent NHL history. Dating back to the start of the 2009-2010 The Habs were repeatedly referred to as too small or not properly built for the playoffs, but instead of proving those accusations to be accurate, they showed a knack of proving everybody wrong. The main story of both cases of â€œcanâ€™tâ€ turning to â€œcanâ€ was/is their goaltending. Both Jaroslav Halak and now Carey Price were/are proudly walking in the shoes of Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy and while not having quite the impact as the aforementioned trio, Price has shined under scrutiny giving Montreal a 2-0 lead.
Then, Boston woke up winning three games in a row. Since the first two games, Thomas has been in the kind of form that will probably reclaim him the Vezina, outdueling Price in the process. Bostonâ€™s high powered offseason acquisition, Nathan Horton, went missing for most of the series but found his game when the Bees needed it most scoring in the last two including the overtime game winner in game 5. Sad news for Leafs fans, besides Montreal still being very much in this, is that Kaberleâ€™s ice time is dwindling. From around 22-23 minutes going into the playoffs heâ€™s down to 15-16 minutes and is the 5th ranked defenseman in that category.
The difference in the series has been depth. Boston has it, MontrealÂ doesn’t. Dman James Wisniewski suffered an injury in Game 5 and missed almost all of the third period before returning to take a regular shift in OT. Forward David Desharnais injured his knee in Game 5 and did not play after the second period. If they donâ€™t get those players back it could be a long night for the Canadiens. Letâ€™s hope so.
Michael Cammalleri â€“ The Ontario native has been his old playoff self. 7 points in the 5 games during the series. In order to win this one he has to be up and running once again.
Tim Thomas and Carey Price â€“ like most of this series, game 6 will also be decided with an epic goaltending duel.