Today was one of the most entertaining days of hockey these playoffs have yet to produce.
It wasn’t the all-hands-deck insanity of the qualifying round, but two Game 7’s back-to-back is about as tense and fun as you can get.
In one corner, you got the Colorado Avalanche looking to finish their comeback against the Dallas Stars.
In the other, the Vancouver Canucks looked to their youth to carry them past the Vegas Golden Knights.
If this round of hockey has shown us anything, it’s how much fun we’re all going to be having watching these young stars over the next decade.
Quinn Hughes played at a superhuman level in Game 6, and if not for an even better game from Thatcher Demko, would have been the shining moment of the Canucks series. Miro Heiskanen was Dallas’ rock throughout the Stars’ series. Cale Makar and Sam Girard were both exceptional for the Avalanche.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg. The next generation of players are developing at such a rapid pace, that it wouldn’t surprise me to see Hughes, Heiskanen and Makar battling for the Norris in the next two seasons.
But before we look too far ahead, let’s talk about how these Game 7’s played out.
Colorado vs Dallas
The Dallas Stars probably weren’t expecting Joel Kiviranta to be the reason they would move on to the Western Conference Finals.
Yet here we are.
Kiviranta, who dressed only because of an injury to Andrew Cogliano, scored the OT winner to help the Stars win 5-4 to seal his hat-trick game.
Colorado went into this game with a slew of injuries that included Matt Calvert, Joonas Donskoi, Pavel Francouz, Philipp Grubauer, Erik Johnson, and captain Gabriel Landeskog.
Third-string goalie Michael Hutchinson got his second straight start of the series, and just played out of his mind to help Colorado stay in this game. That includes this literal last-second glove save on Joe Pavelski.
Nazem Kadri continued his incredible playoff run in this game, finishing his chances and being a general threat throughout the entirety of the match.
Game 7 was absolute insanity. Every minute was back-and-fourth, no team was able to pull away. The game looked to finally swing in Colorado’s favour when Vladislav Namestnikov banged in a rebound with 3:40 left in the third.
Before the announcement came on in the rink, Dallas’ Kiviranta scored his second of the game just 10 seconds later to tie it up at four apiece.
Off to overtime we go.
After much (MUCH) back-and-forth, Kiviranta finished off the hat-trick when he pulled away from the Colorado crease, slid into the slot, took a pass from Andrej Sekera from behind the net, and hammered a one-timer past Hutchinson for the series win.
This is the first time that Dallas will be playing in the conference finals since 2008. Rick Bowness has done a great job coaching this Stars team. This Game 7 belongs to Alex Radulov, who was in peak 2017 form, and of course, Kiviranta.
It’s too bad that we won’t get to see MacKinnon continue on his warpath, but that;s the way things go sometimes. Does Colorado advance without all those injuries? Maybe, but Dallas fought for every single inch of ice this series.
Vegas vs Vancouver
Well, when you don’t touch the puck for an entire game, maybe things aren’t going to go that well for you as a hockey team.
Vancouver did their absolute best to disprove this theory, but Vegas wasn’t about to be blackballed three games in a row.
With a 3-0 win — with two empty-netters — the Golden Knights eliminate the Canucks and advance to the Western Conference Finals where they’ll play Dallas.
Listen, I’m not saying that the Vancouver Canucks owe Thatcher Demko a steak dinner.
I’m saying they owe him the whole damn restaurant.
In three games, Demko put on one of the most impressive playoff goaltending performances in recent memory. Shades of 2006 Cam Ward and 2010 Jaroslav Halak.
For the entirety of Game 7, Vegas imposed their will on the Canucks. The ice looked like it was slanted at a 90 degree angle whenever Vegas was in the offensive zone.
Demko picked up where he left on in Game 6, acting as a brick wall, but minus the cracks. And he might’ve single-handedly dragged his team through mud and glass into the next round if it wasn’t for a Shea Theodore (also holy shit what a series and playoffs from him) snuck a point shot past a heavily screened Demko for the game winner.
With 33 saves in Game 7, Demko made a total of 127 saves on 129 shots, which is honestly just kind of messed up. Just look at how baffled Mark Stone was during the post-series handshake.
Side note, but Ryan Reaves, who the media seem to have decided is the best thing since sliced bread, got a 5 Minute Major for his headshot on Tyler Motte. Happy to see the refs get the call right with this one.
Now it’s time for the Department of Player Safety to get the call right on their end and suspend him for at least two games. These are the hits that destroy careers and reinforce toxic hockey culture if left unpunished.
Julie Chu joins NHL Player Inclusion Committee
Concordia Stingers women’s hockey head coach and legend Julie Chu posted that she’ll be joining the NHL’s Player Inclusion Committee.
I can’t think of a better choice. During my time speaking and watching Chu work, she’s the definition of class, integrity and thoughtfulness. Her players at Concordia love her, and I can’t wait to see what kind of work she’s able to get done on this committee.
- Thank you Ben Bishop for gifting us this all-time gif: