5 NHL stories, including unlikely hero Joel Ward

Just one game on Day 15 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. But to paraphrase the promotional slogan, it doesn't get any bigger than Game 7 between the Capitals and Bruins.
Washington forward Joel Ward, centre, gets mobbed by his teammates as stunned Boston fans look on after Ward's OT goal in Game 7. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

Just one game fell on Day 15 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. But, to paraphrase the promotional slogan, it doesn't get any bigger than Game 7 between the Capitals and Bruins. In the end, an improbable hero won it for Washington.

1. It just had to end this way. After the first six games of their opening-round series were each decided by one goal (three of those in overtime), the Caps and Bruins needed OT to settle Game 7. No surprises, right? Well, not quite. An unlikely hero emerged in Washington’s Joel Ward, who had just six goals all season before banging in the OT winner to eliminate the defending champion Bruins.

2. Two more Game 7s are set for Thursday night, with the majority of Canadian fans likely to focus on Ottawa’s winner-take-all showdown against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. CBCSports.ca hockey writer Tim Wharnsby says the Senators should have extra motivation to win one for Captain Alfie.

3. Thursday’s "other" Game 7 will decide the much-overlooked Florida-New Jersey series. The Devils may have the edge in experience with goalie Marty Brodeur set to play in the 10th Game 7 of his Hall of Fame career, writes series blogger Jay Greenberg, but the Panthers have a knack for pouncing on their scoring opportunities.

4. The fallout continues from the Canucks’ first-round exit, with Roberto Luongo being mentioned as a candidate to leave Vancouver after the oft-criticized goalie said he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause. But will GM Mike Gillis be able to find another team willing to take on the 10 years left on the mammoth extension Gillis signed Luongo to in 2009? Actually, dealing the Canucks' erstwhile franchise player could be easier than you think, writes Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman.

5. The Vezina Trophy finalists have been announced, and there’s guaranteed to be a first-time winner. None of the three nominees — Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick, and the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist — have won the NHL’s top goaltending honour before. Who’s your pick? Read up on each goalie’s credentials and vote in our poll.