It’s the two best words in all of sports: “Game Seven.” After six high-energy and high-scoring contests, it all comes down to one game between the Dallas Stars and the Colorado Avalanche to determine who will advance to the Western Conference Finals.
Here is a preview for Game 7 between the Stars and Avalanche, along with a series recap and free pick. The latest odds lean toward Colorado pulling off the series comeback and advancing to the next round, listing them at -140.
In a series that has seen 48 goals scored, an average of 8 per game, Game 1 set the tone early. Right-wing Alexander Radulov scored two goals, one of which was the game-winner to help the Stars win 5-3. The other big contributor for Dallas was the captain, left-wing Jamie Benn, who dished out three helpers in the game.
Colorado did their best to respond in Game 2, but was shut down by goaltender Anton Khudobin. Khudobin made 38 saves as the Stars earned a 5-2 win. Dallas was also aided by Radulov, who had another multi-point effort, and goal-scorers Joe Pavelski and Radek Faksa.
In Game 3, the Avalanche finally made it a series. Down by a goal with less than 10 minutes to go in the game, Colorado scored three straight goals to beat Dallas 6-4 and bring the series to within one. The big names on the Avs came through, as left-wing and captain Gabriel Landeskog, right-wing Mikko Rantanen, and center Nazem Kadri all delivered goals.
The Stars shook off a rough Game 3 and rebounded in Game 4, winning 5-4. A three-goal first period set the tone for Dallas, with Faksa and Benn each scoring power-play goals. Right-wing Denis Gurianov beat the goalie to rack up his team-leading eighth goal of the playoffs as well.
Facing elimination, the Avalanche had a massive five-goal first period to lift them to a 6-3 win in Game 5. Center Nathan MacKinnon scored, as did left-wing Andre Burakovsky, who scored a pair of goals in the game. Rantanen and Kadri also added goals in Colorado’s explosive performance.
Then in Game 6, another game in which they were facing elimination, the Avs ripped off four unanswered goals to win 4-1 and send the series to a seventh game. D-men Nikita Zadorov and Cale Makar tied and gave them and the lead respectively, while Rantanen and MacKinnon tacked on insurance goals in the final frame.
Keys to Victory
Dallas will win if the “stars” come through. Look at the last few games, and you’ll notice guys like Faksa, Gurianov, and Radulov all putting up points. But the Stars could use a great performance from both Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Benn has managed to put up points this series, but Seguin has been held pointless for three straight games.
The center has just two goals for the entire postseason. When you compare Seguin and the rest of the first line, who has just one point in the last two games total, to MacKinnon alone, who averages at least one point every game, it’s imperative they up their level of play on Friday.
Colorado will win if Hutchinson doesn’t implode. Everyone seems to be waiting for the journeyman backup Michael Hutchinson to implode in net. But, he has delivered in each of the last two games for the Avs. He was especially solid in Game 6, stopping 27 of the 28 shots that came his way.
His career numbers are less than impressive, but sometimes the playoffs come down to what you can do now as opposed to then. Another stellar performance from Hutchinson likely means the Avs are sticking around in the bubble.
The worst part about Game 7 is that there is no more series after it’s done, especially true given how fun each game between these clubs was. But there can only be one winner, and quite frankly, it has to be the team that is playing better in this current moment. Based on what we’ve seen in the two most recent games, solid goaltending had given the Avalanche a whole new outlook.
Even with some of the injuries, they’re dealing with, Colorado has all the momentum, the superior production from their elite players, and the hotter goalie. I’m rolling with the Avs to complete the series comeback and advance to the conference finals.
Pick: Avalanche -140