Who wins Bruins-Panthers and Avalanche-Kraken? Predictions, X factors for two Game 7s
After a record-setting season, the Boston Bruins find themselves on the brink of a first-round upset loss against the Florida Panthers. Can the Presidents’ Trophy winners avoid becoming the latest NHL team with the best regular-season record to flop in the postseason? Or will the Panthers pull off the huge upset and advance to the second round?
In the Western Conference, the defending champion Colorado Avalanche are trying to keep their repeat hopes alive against the upstart Seattle Kraken, who are looking to advance in the franchise’s second season.
How has Florida frustrated Boston? Who has been the MVP of the Colorado-Seattle series? Who will advance from the win-or-go-home games? Our reporters and analysts are here to answer those very questions:
Florida Panthers at Boston Bruins
6:30 p.m. ET (TNT)
What are the Panthers doing that’s giving the Bruins so much trouble?
Ryan S. Clark, NHL reporter: It’s their approach to the third period. Look at their wins, and a strong third period is at the heart of that success. They scored four goals in the third to win Game 2. They scored four goals again to win Game 6 and force Game 7.
Arda Ocal, NHL analyst: Being physical — every Panthers player had at least one hit in Game 1, and that’s been a theme. Not giving the Bruins much space, being tough and competing in front of the net, especially Matthew Tkachuk, who has been terrific in his office.
Kristen Shilton, NHL reporter: The Panthers had/have nothing to lose here. That mentality is clearly helping Florida handle the emotional swings of this series better than the Bruins. Many of these Panthers remember how it feels to be under pressure as Presidents’ Trophy winners. Boston tenses up with every back-and-forth frame, every little mistake. Florida has simply stayed in the fight knowing it doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to get it done.
Greg Wyshynski, NHL reporter: Capitalizing on mistakes. I don’t want to take anything away from what the Panthers have done here — especially the part where Tkachuk basically took over the series. But the Bruins played themselves out of Game 2, made critical mistakes in Game 5 (including that Linus Ullmark turnover in overtime) and then gave up multiple leads in Game 6. I don’t know if it’s injuries or the weight of the Presidents’ Trophy or what, but the Bruins have done a remarkable number of un-Bruins-like things to push this to seven games.
What’s your final score prediction for Panthers-Bruins Game 7?
Clark: 5-4 OT Panthers. There’s little reason to think there won’t be tons of goals, given the Bruins and Panthers have averaged a combined 8.4 per game since Game 1. And while the Bruins were one of the NHL’s best defensive teams, the Panthers led the league in most danger chances per 60 and have scored 11 goals in their past two games.
Ocal: 4-3 OT Bruins. Panthers push hard — this one has tons of drama — but the Bruins’ record-breaking season rolls on, with plenty to unpack in the first round. I’m curious whether Jeremy Swayman starts Game 7.
Shilton: 5-4 OT Bruins. Matthew Tkachuk will lead this spirited Panthers group to a dramatic finale. But with their seasons on the line, I’m betting on Boston’s experience over Florida’s gumption.
Wyshynski: 4-2 Panthers. One team is playing with house money, taking on that “you guys all thought we’d get swept” mindset that Tkachuk put voice to a few games ago. The other team is watching the balloons pop at its coronation party. Do I put my faith in the best regular-season team (from a standings perspective) in NHL history or the unwavering voodoo of the Presidents’ Trophy curse? I choose chaos.
Seattle Kraken at Colorado Avalanche
9:30 p.m. ET (TNT)
Who has been the MVP of the Avs-Kraken series so far?
Clark: Philipp Grubauer. The Kraken were in the bottom 10 in team save percentage in 5-on-5 play. So it led to questions. Grubauer has answered those questions by posting a .919 save percentage this postseason after having a .895 save percentage in the regular season.
Ocal: The committee of Kraken scorers: 14 different skaters have goals for Seattle. People counted them out, and they are following up their huge Year 1-to-Year 2 regular-season glow-up with a chance to eliminate the reigning Cup champs in Game 7.
Shilton: Yanni Gourde. The Kraken forward does it all: game-winning goals, blocked shots, takeaways, stick checks, forechecks, backchecks. He’s everywhere, all the time. Seattle wasn’t a team of stars this season, but Gourde has emerged for me as one in this series.
Wyshynski: Jared Bednar. The Avalanche have had to deal with lineup absences and adversity, and the coach has helped keep things from spiraling. He’s done some good line shuffling, including for Game 6. Again, Colorado has been without Gabriel Landeskog for the season, Cale Makar for a one-game suspension and Valeri Nichushkin for undisclosed reasons after Game 2. Bednar also had to be the one to field questions about Nichushkin’s absence after an incident in a Seattle hotel room, because team management has declined to do so.
What’s your final score prediction for Avalanche-Kraken Game 7?
Ocal: 3-2 Seattle. Grubauer has a terrific game, Jordan Eberle finds the back of the net and Matty Beniers provides the dagger.
Shilton: 4-2 Colorado. Pains me to say it, because Seattle is fun to watch. After Game 6, though, and seeing the reigning Stanley Cup champs push back like they did, it’s hard to bet against them doing it again in Game 7. I’d be delighted to be proved wrong here, though.
Wyshynski: 3-2 Seattle (OT). The Kraken should still feel good about where their game is, despite not being able to close this series out at home. They’ve played three straight solid defensive games against a high-octane offense. They know how to grind out a win on the road. The loss of Andrew Cogliano to a fractured neck is yet another lineup subtraction for the Avalanche against a deep Seattle team. I think the Kraken pull the upset, but it’ll take overtime. Let’s go with Gourde as the game-winning goal scorer, as he’s no stranger to Game 7 heroics.
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