The first round of the 2014 NHL playoffs is almost over, but with New York squaring off against Philadelphia on Tuesday and at least two Game 7s on Wednesday, the action is just starting to heat up.
The Minnesota Wild have forced a seventh game against the Colorado Avalanche, and the San Jose Sharks have blown a 3-0 series lead to let the Los Angeles Kings slide back into contention for another Stanley Cup.
If Philadelphia beats New York Tuesday, hockey fans will have three Game 7s on Wednesday.
Here is the entire first-round bracket, the remaining schedule with television information and a preview of the most exciting Game 7 fans can’t afford to miss.
For an updated NHL playoff bracket, check out NHLPlayoffsBracket.com.
|Tuesday, April 29||7:30 p.m.||NY Rangers at Philadelphia||NBCSN|
|*Wednesday, April 30||7 p.m.||Philadelphia at NY Rangers||NBCSN|
|Wednesday, April 30||9:30 p.m.||Minnesota at Colorado||CNBC|
|Wednesday, April 30||10 p.m.||Los Angeles at San Jose||NBCSN|
Source: NHL.com. *If necessary.
Game 7 You Can’t Miss: Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche
While there are few fans that thought the Western Conference first-round series between the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild would be can’t-miss television, the matchup is dragging into a Game 7, and everyone should be focused on the battle Wednesday night.
Colorado jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the series before Minnesota made the tough decision to pull starting goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and replace him with unproven prospect Darcy Kuemper.
The move worked for the Wild, as the team went on to win three of the next four games and have forced the series to Game 7. While the Avalanche have the home-ice advantage in this series and will host the final game, the momentum is on the side of Minnesota and Kuemper.
Colorado forward P.A. Parenteau spoke to Mike Chambers of The Denver Post about getting more pressure on Kuemper in Game 7:
The way we played in 'Minny,' the way our offense was going, we don't even know what he's made of. That's the main goal, to test this kid and see what kind of nerves he has. We've made some adjustments to get more offense.
Parenteau is correct in his belief that the team must increase the pressure on the young netminder. Even with all of the raw talent in the world, the big-game pressure and bright lights will weigh on Kuemper.
The Avalanche must throw everything at him on Wednesday.
While focusing on consistent offensive pressure will be the top priority, Denver radio personality Rick Lewis talked about the importance of home-ice advantage:
Game 7 at home is not a bad thing for this Avalanche team. The more playoff experience, the better this young team will be moving forward.— Rick Lewis (@1RickLewis) April 29, 2014
With an incredible mix of overtime heroics, elite goaltender play, timely scoring and brutal physicality, this series has surpassed any expectations place upon it before the postseason began.
Who ya got?
This matchup was an afterthought, but now hockey fans from across the world will be ready to witness Game 7.
As well as the Wild have played and as much credit as they deserve, the Avalanche have a deeper roster and will pull together to put Minnesota away. Led by offensive powerhouses like Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene, Colorado should be able to pull out the win.
Regardless of who wins Game 7 and the series, NHL fans will be treated to an amazing show.
Series Prediction: Colorado wins 4-3
*Stats via NHL.com.