NHL playoffs Game 7 picks for Saturday: Three first-round series are down to the wire

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Will the Tampa Bay Lightning keep their bid for a three-peat going or will the Toronto Maple Leafs win a playoff series for the first time since 2004?

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Will the Carolina Hurricanes advance with a home win or will the Boston Bruins become the first team in this series to pick up a road victory?

Does Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid have another big game in him to reach the second round for the second time in his career or does Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown get the chance to extend his career?

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These questions will be decided as three first-round series are going to Game 7 on Saturday.

USA TODAY Sports’ NHL experts Jimmy Hascup, Jace Evans weigh in with their predictions:

Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes

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4:30 pm ET Saturday, ET

Hascup: Bruins 3, Hurricanes 2. Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman will have to prove that Game 6 win in a do-or-die situation was no fluke, but also important is secondary scoring when the Hurricanes can line match against them. Game 6 was a good sign as Erik Haula and Curtis Lazar each scored their first of the playoffs, while Charlie Coyle got his second.

Brehm: Hurricanes 4, Bruins 2. I said in my series prediction that the Hurricanes would win in seven because coach Rod Brind’Amour would have home ice in the deciding game. The series has played out that way, so I’ll stick with Carolina.

Evans: Hurricanes 5, Bruins 3. Home ice has made all the difference this series and Carolina has it for Game 7.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs

7 pm ET Saturday, TNT

Hascup: Lightning 4, Maple Leafs 2. The Lightning have too much playoff experience, so the pressure of a Game 7 on the road won’t be too much … and until the two-time defending champions get knocked off, it is hard to pick against them. The Maple Leafs, on the other hand … well, they haven’t gotten past the first round since the 2003-04 playoffs, and even though they’ve reached the postseason in six consecutive seasons, they have lost three Game 7s in that span .

Brehm: Lightning 5, Maple Leafs 3. The Maple Leafs have lost eight consecutive potential clinching games since 2018. It will be nine. The Lightning dug deep to win Game 6 and they have the championship pedigree to do it again in Toronto.

Evans: Lightning 3, Maple Leafs 1. No group will be under more pressure to win Saturday night than the Maple Leafs. They’ve largely been the better team this series, but I’ve been burned by this group too many times to believe this winner-take-all game will be different.

Los Angeles Kings at Edmonton Oilers

10 pm ET Saturday, ESPN

Hascup: Kings 4, Oilers 3. I realize it is not prudent to pick against the team that has Connor McDavid and Leon Draisitl and that the Oilers have outplayed Los Angeles in the series on a whole. But I picked the Kings in seven and I’m sticking with it … plus, the Oilers are trying to win a Stanley Cup with Mike Smith in the net.

Brehm: Oilers 4, Kings 3. I also have questions about Mike Smith in the net, but Connor McDavid can lift his game once more and get past the Kings.

Evans: Oilers 4, Kings 2. LA has put up a valiant fight but Edmonton has, for my money, the best player in the world. Connor McDavid was a beast in Game 6 and I think he rises to the occasion again to drag his flawed team into the second round.


Source: www.usatoday.com

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