The two most notorious words in sports: Game Seven. The mere mention of the phrase is enough to kick-start the heart of hockey fans across the globe. It’s the most entertaining event in sports for fans with no vested interest in either team playing. But for people who have pledged their allegiance to either of the two sides, it’s an excruciatingly long sixty-plus minutes of heart-in-your-throat action.
On Wednesday evening the defending champion Boston Bruins will look to prolong their title defense in game seven of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals. Here are my five predictions for what you will all see at the Garden this evening.
1) Jordan Caron WILL Be In The Lineup
– With the upper body injury to Patrice Bergeron one could only assume that the Bruins will once again dress sophomore power forward Jordan Caron, at the expense of one of their other bottom-six skaters. The 21-year-old Caron provides Claude Julien with flexibility in case number 37 becomes more severely injured and cannot fulfill his normal allotment of ice-time. Caron has the ability to play a grinding fourth line role but also possesses the required skill set to skate on one of the B’s first two offensive units. While many believe that it will again be Shawn Thornton who will be relegated to the press box as Caron enters the lineup, I am of the opinion that Benoit Pouliot will be the odd man out on Wednesday. After taking a late penalty in back-to-back games, the Alfred, Ontario native seems to have reverted to the player that was a healthy scratch for the Canadiens during last year’s postseason. Whether it be Pouliot or Thornton to take a seat, expect Jordan Caron to be in the Boston lineup on Wednesday.
2) Alex Ovechkin WILL Be A MAJOR Factor
– Held to just one goal in the first six games of the series, the Russian uberstar has been well contained by Boston’s top defense pair of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. However, the Great Eight was buzzing during Sunday’s game six, scoring Washington’s only goal of the third period and creating an abundance of chances for both he and his teammates. I’d expect that to continue tonight with the Capitals’ supremely talented left wing picking up at least one goal for his team on this, the grandest of playoff stages.
3) Braden Holtby Will NOT Crack Under Pressure
– It seems as through Boston sports fans are under the impression that Washington rookie netminder Braden Holtby is going to “wet the bed” so to speak and come unraveled right before their very eyes on the pressure packed ice of the TD Garden. Those folks could not be more off based in their assumptions. Back in June I remember speaking with a colleague of mine and I told him with confidence that Holtby would have more NHL success than either of Washington’s other 22-year-old goaltenders, Michael Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov has since been dealt to Colorado and while Neuvirth has enjoyed a solid 2011-’12 campaign, he’s been far from a superstar in net.
Through six games of this series the Boston Bruins have learned exactly why I made those remarks about the Saskatchewan native just nine months ago. He’s shown both skill and composure en route to a 1.60 playoff GAA. If he hasn’t cracked through the first six games of this series — even after the Bruins scored two goals in twenty-eight seconds in game five — there is no evidence to suggest that he will turtle tonight, despite it being his first career game seven appearance.
4) Game Seven WILL Be Decided By ONE Goal
– This Bruins vs. Capitals’ series has been history-making, in the sense that is has been the first series in NHL history to have it’s first six games decided by only one goal. This is a tremendously surprising statistic, being that the NHL has been widely recognized as the league with more parity that it’s professional sports counterparts. I believe that tonight will be no different, as these two squads will set another record, making this the only series in history to have all SEVEN games decided by one goal.
5) The Bruins Will Survive
– If last year’s remarkable run to Lord Stanley taught us anything, it’s that the Black and Gold can never be counted out. Amassing five consecutive wins in games in which they’ve faced the possibility of elimination, the B’s have certainly been in this situation before. Just last summer they became the first team in history to win three game sevens en route to a championship. While it does feel a bit different — and maybe not for the better – for the city of Boston to have confidence heading into a decisive game seven, I have a hard time picking against the Bruins at home in a do-or-die scenario. My pick would be Boston over Washington 3-2 with the game-winning-goal to come late in the third period.
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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Have written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com.