It’s a hockey fan’s dream with three Game 7s on deck, including contests involving the Leafs and the Flames.
Here are five things to know as we head into Saturday’s post-season action:
LEAFS FIGHTING HISTORY BOTH OLD AND NEW
The Toronto Maple Leafs will host the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday in yet another do-or-die Game 7 for them.
Toronto’s playoff misery has been well documented. The team hasn’t won a series since 2004 and hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967.
More recently, however, the Leafs have been equally as unsuccessful playing in Game 7. Over the last nine seasons, the Leafs have played in four Game 7s and have never emerged the victor.
The weight of history, both old and recent, look to be on Toronto’s shoulders heading into Saturday night.
OILERS STARS LOOKING TO GET THE JOB DONE
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are two of the best players in the world and they have the individual accolades to support that claim.
Combined, they have five Art Ross trophies, four Ted Lindsay awards and three Hart Memorials.
Despite their talents, however, the Edmonton Oilers have only won one playoff series with the two superstars on the roster.
On Saturday, they’ll get a chance to rewrite this dubious part of their history when they square off against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 at home.
McDavid and Draisaitl have been productive so far through the first six games of Edmonton’s playoff run, combining for 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) and they’ll likely need to be on their A-game once again if they want to reach the second round.
FLAMES UNABLE TO EXECUTE AT END OF GAME
The Calgary Flames fell to the Dallas Stars 4-2 Friday, setting up a Game 7 Sunday at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Trailing 3-2 for much of the third period, when it looked like the Flames wanted to get an extra attacker on the ice with about four minutes left to play in regulation, Calgary wasn’t able to get the kind of sustained pressure needed in the offensive zone to comfortably pull Jacob Markstrom.
The Calgary netminder wasn’t able to get off the ice until less than a minute remained in the game, but by then it was too late.
The Stars played sound, positional hockey in their end, denying Calgary easy zone entries late in Friday’s game and as a result the Flames weren’t even given a chance to send the game to overtime and possibly finish the series.
VERHAEGHE THE HERO AGAIN AS CATS ELIMINATE CAPS
Carter Verhaeghe scored the game winner just 2:46 into overtime to help the Florida Panthers win their first playoff series since 1996 with a 4-3 win over the Washington Capitals Friday.
Verhaeghe, a 26-year-old Toronto native, was productive during the regular season for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Panthers, tallying 55 points — good for sixth on the team — but appeared to find another gear in this first-round series.
He added an assist in the clinching victory Friday to bring his point total in the series to 14 (seven goals, seven assists) as he emerged as a breakout star on Florida’s top line.
The Panthers are the first Eastern Conference team to advance to the second round. They await the winner of the Toronto-Tampa Bay series.
RANGERS STORM BACK AGAIN, FORCE GAME 7
Trailing 2-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in an elimination game, the New York Rangers looked right at home as they once again erased that deficit to win 5-3 and force a decisive Game 7 Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
This is the second straight game the Rangers have come back down 2-0.
The Penguins were without captain Sidney Crosby, who’s dealing with an upper-body injury and without his presence on the ice, Pittsburgh has looked shaky as the Blueshirts have stormed back twice now without him out there.
Crosby played just six shifts in the second period of Game 5 before he was removed from the contest. His departure from that game coincided with the start of New York’s comeback.