Games 7 are a coin toss.
It’s a weird coin, and one side of it weighs a little bit more than the other, but with the amount of luck involved in a game with such small variance in player skill and such great variance in puck bounces, any single game can go to either team with pretty similar odds, such that a 60-40 line in the betting odds is near overwhelming. We look back on results and ascribe causal narratives, but many of those are post-hoc and perfunctory, not truly indicative of what happened on the ice.
As the San Jose Sharks prepare to host the Colorado Avalanche in the former team’s second Game 7 of this postseason, our boys are probably favored to win at home, perhaps even heavily so. That means little to us, though, and each time the Sharks roll the proverbial Game 7 dice, they tempt the hockey gods to punish them for their hubris.
In the playoffs, narrative reigns supreme, but it can’t take the throne from variance until after the deeds are done. I’ve built my shrine to those fickle bladed deities to whom the Sharks have already sacrificed so many teeth, join the cause.
What’s on tap
Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues Game 7 (Series tied 3-3)
5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
There’s a lot to dig into as the Blues and Stars meet for their second round Game 7 for the second time in four years. The two teams have changed a lot since that meeting, which should be a boon for the Stars, who were shelled 6-1 in that deciding game of the 2016 Western Conference semifinal. While ancient history would appear to favor the Blues, who are 8-8 in Games 7 all time, but 4-2 at home, compared to Dallas’ 5-7 all time and 2-4 on the road, this year (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) is weird. The Blues hold just a 2-4 record at home this postseason, and have been buoyed by their excellent 5-1 road record.
For the Stars, the key to continuing their season lies with the success of the same person who brought them this far: Benjamin “been jammin’” Bishop himself. Bishop’s record in Games 7 over his career is a sterling 2-0 with zero (0) goals against. His two Game 7 shutouts both came in the 2015 playoffs as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning (first round against the Detroit Red Wings, third round against the New York Rangers), and he stopped 53 shots over those two games. Further, Bishop has been a bounce back player in these playoffs, as he’s allowed two or fewer goals in every game immediately following one where he allowed three or more, like he did (sort of) in Game 6. Cards on the table: that figure is probably more a factor of regression to a very good mean than a psychological analysis of the player, but in this case, both predict similar results.
Jason Spezza: While Dallas’ stars have been doing a fair amount of heavy lifting, this round mostly belongs to depth players on both teams. Spezza is tied with rookie phenom and world famous anagram puzzle Roope Hintz (is it trizone hop? That doesn’t make sense ... zero point? No, too mean, also there’s an extra H ... poor zenith? I give up) leading the team with three goals each this series while Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov have combined for four.
Colton Parayko: Where Dallas is relying on depth for offensive production, St. Louis is thriving with it. Ten players have scored this series, and none of them are named Ryan O’Reilly or Brayden Schenn. More than that, the Blues are getting scoring from the back end: St. Louis is third in defensive scoring with three goals and 29 points from the blue line (San Jose is first: eight goals and 33 points). Second among the Blues’ blue liners is Parayko, who made headlines the wrong way in Game 6 by trying to assassinate Bishop. Whether or not you think the following goal should have counted (nope), it did, and Parayko is just behind Alex Pietrangelo on the postseason box score with a goal and seven assists.
The Blues will be looking for another strong start like they showcased in Game 6. On Sunday, St. Louis recorded the first eight shots of the game, including their first goal just over a minute in. If Dallas can hold off their hosts’ initial flurry, and try to keep Bishop’s job from being too impossible, they may slay this second half dragon and doom the Blues to a 52nd year of Cup-less tragedy.