NHL Playoffs 2022: Odds, Hot Takes, Top Storylines for May 15 Schedule
After three Game 7 matchups Saturday, two more are on tap for Sunday, which is when the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs will conclude. By the end of the weekend, the four series will be set for the second round.
It's already known that the Colorado Avalanche will face the St. Louis Blues in one Western Conference second-round matchup. On the other side of the West bracket, either the Calgary Flames or Dallas Stars will advance to face the Edmonton Oilers, who won their Game 7 matchup against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
In the Eastern Conference, the Florida Panthers will be playing the Tampa Bay Lightning. And in the other second-round matchup, either the New York Rangers or Pittsburgh Penguins will be moving on and facing the Carolina Hurricanes. The Lightning and Hurricanes both advanced Saturday, when they each won a Game 7 contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, respectively.
Here's a look at Sunday's schedule, along with odds, predictions and storylines for the final day of the first round.
Sunday Schedule, Odds
Game 7: Pittsburgh Penguins (+120; bet $100 to win $120) at New York Rangers (-140; bet $140 to win $100), 7 p.m. ET, TBS
Game 7: Dallas Stars (+180) at Calgary Flames (-210), 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook
Crosby Will Return, Lead Penguins Past Rangers
Sidney Crosby missed Game 6 of the Pittsburgh-New York series because of an upper-body injury that he suffered in Game 5. Without him, the Penguins missed an opportunity to end the series on their home ice, as the Rangers staved off elimination with a 5-3 win.
At one point, it seemed like a sure thing that Pittsburgh would be advancing. It had a 3-1 lead in the series after winning both Games 3 and 4 at home. Now, it will all come down to a Game 7 in New York.
The good news for the Penguins is that Crosby seems to be trending in the right direction. According to Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Crosby was on the ice Saturday for an optional practice. And although his Game 7 status is still uncertain, it was an encouraging sign.
"He's doing his very best to get himself back and ready as quickly as he can. We'll see how that process goes," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. "I think anytime he's on the ice, I think it's good for our team, it's good for our players, it's good for our morale, and that's certainly a boost for our guys."
The prediction here is that Crosby will suit up for Pittsburgh and help lead it to victory. The 34-year-old center tallied multiple points in each of the first four games of this series. But the captain's most important trait may be his leadership, which the Penguins need for this crucial contest.
Pittsburgh may also be getting a boost at goaltender, as Tristan Jarry was on the ice as well Saturday, per Rorabaugh. If Jarry plays Game 7, it will help improve the Penguins defense, which has allowed five goals in each of the past two games.
The Penguins could be getting healthier at the right time, especially considering they would be advancing to the second round with a win over the Rangers on Sunday.
Flames Will Rout Stars in Lopsided Game 7 in Calgary
It seemed like the Flames were about to put the series away. After falling behind 2-1 to Dallas, Calgary won Game 4 on the road and Game 5 at home to take control. All it needed to do to put away the Stars was notch a third consecutive victory Friday.
However, the Flames were unsuccessful as the Stars staved off elimination with a 4-2 win in Game 6. Now, the series returns to Calgary, where the Flames have won two of the three games thus far on their home ice. Whether or not they also win Game 7 could depend on the play of goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
Over Calgary's three wins in this series, Dallas has scored only two goals. But the Stars have scored 10 goals across their three victories. Markstrom has been a bit inconsistent, but when he's playing to his potential, it's been difficult for Dallas to score at times.
This will be the first Game 7 of the 32-year-old Markstrom's career. But he's been strong for the Flames all season (.922 save percentage and a 2.22 goals-against average in 63 regular-season games), and he should rise to the occasion with Calgary needing him to do so.
It's been impressive that the Stars have taken this series the full distance, as the Flames appeared to be a heavy favorite. Dallas has played well and had a strong showing that's been better than many predicted.
But Calgary is the better team in this matchup, and that will show in the high-pressure Game 7 situation. Markstrom will have a big game, and the Flames offense will have no trouble turning it into a one-sided contest that powers them into the second round.
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