With the participants of the Western Conference Finals already determined in this year’s NHL Playoffs, the Eastern Conference has their final two still yet to be decided.
The Montreal Canadiens have put themselves in good position to possibly force a Game 7 in their series against the Lightning after Tampa Bay got all the way to a 3-0 series lead.
This kind of series lead is something only squandered a handful of times in playoff history, including last season when the Los Angeles Kings came back to beat the San Jose Sharks after finding themselves in a similar pitfall.
Game 6 of this series takes place later today in Tampa Bay and if the Lightning don’t close out the Canadiens now then they’ll be in some serious trouble — the reason being that Game 7 is back in Montreal.
The other two teams battling it out back East, the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers, have already locked themselves in a Game 7 of their own.
This comes despite the fact that Washington jumped out to an astonishing 3-1 series lead that not many experts or reporters saw coming.
But just like that, both Tampa Bay and Washington have their playoff lives on the line and are no longer sitting in a comfortable position.
But then again, this is why we love the playoffs.
The Rangers had all of the expectations the hockey world could possibly put on them coming into the post season since the Los Angeles Kings, the team that seems to be everyone’s playoff nightmare, weren’t in the running this time around.
And I mean really, who could blame them?
The final determinant will be simply who wants it more than the other team. Nothing else matters in Game 7 because everything and anything that could possibly happen seems to have already taken place — but somehow, these moments always surprise us with something new.
If the Lightning-Canadiens series does go to a Game 7, the winner of that game will be my pick to take the Eastern Conference and here’s why — they’ve had the harder road.
The Candiens were pushed near the brink against the insanely driven Ottawa Senators in the first round but the Rangers took care of the Penguins pretty handily.
This being the case, the Rangers hadn’t really been tested yet and ran into a brick wall against the Capitals early on — but the Candiens were ready.
The Lightning barely scraped by the Detroit Red Wings themselves, so coming into the second round both Montreal and Tampa Bay were going to be at each others’ throats from Game 1 — and that’s exactly what we’ve seen.
Once this bloodbath is over, the champion, much like a warrior following his greatest battle, will get more than just bragging rights or the opportunity to move on — they won’t look back.
The winner of this series will also have the mentality of killing off the other team before they are killed off themselves. The Capitals showed a bit of passive play after garnering their series lead, but the Lightning never relented despite the score sometimes ending in a lopsided fashion.
Any way the wind blows, let’s hope we get to watch both series go to Game 7.