The Western Conference Second Round between the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche has been a see-saw affair from the start with alternating wins through the first six games.
Now, in the second Game 7 of the second round, can the Sharks hold serve at SAP Center or will the Avalanche finally find a way to win back-to-back games in the deciding game of the best-of-7 series Wednesday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS)?
The winner faces the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Final.
[RELATED: Full Sharks vs. Avalanche series coverage]
Here's how five NHL.com writers see Game 7 unfolding:
Tim Campbell, staff writer
The series has been back-and-forth from game to game, as well as within games. It's been that close and should leave nobody surprised that neither team has been able to win two games in a row. I see no reason this won't continue. The speed and spunk the Avalanche have shown announces their arrival as a threat for seasons to come, in my opinion. The Sharks have played the role of the more veteran team, cagey at times, smart and driven. Questions have arisen about how much energy San Jose spent to eliminate the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round in seven games, but that energy has appeared at critical times for the Sharks and it will again when all the cards are on the table for Game 7. Final score: Sharks 4, Avalanche 2
Nick Cotsonika, columnist
It's San Jose's turn, in terms of this back-and-forth series and the bigger picture. The Sharks are all-in to win now; the Avalanche have a bright future but are ahead of schedule having made it this far. In Game 7 at home, with so much on the line, you've got to think San Jose will play its best game, especially if center Joe Pavelski makes an emotional return to the lineup from the injury he sustained in Game 7 of the previous round. Final score: Sharks 4, Avalanche 2
Video: Colorado forces Game 7 with team effort to win Game 6
Tom Gulitti, staff writer
The Sharks found a way to hold Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon in check the past two games, so he seems due to break out. But San Jose also has players who are overdue to contribute including center Joe Thornton (one goal, one assist in the series), forward Evander Kane (one goal, one assist) and forward Kevin Labanc (one goal). Or maybe defenseman Erik Karlsson (three assists) will score his first goal since Dec. 29. Final score: Sharks 4, Avalanche 3
David Satriano, staff writer
The Sharks rallied to defeat the Golden Knights 5-4 in overtime of Game 7 to finish their escape after trailing 3-1 in the best-of-7 series. They will have more overtime magic against the Avalanche. Whether or not Pavelski returns, San Jose will feed off the home crowd before advancing to the conference final with an overtime win to keep their Stanley Cup dreams alive. Final score: Sharks 3, Avalanche 2, OT
Video: Breaking down MacKinnon's playmaking vs. the Sharks
Dave Stubbs, columnist
It's always such fun to see a team win a sudden-death Game 7 on home ice in front of its wildly enthusiastic fans. But that won't happen Wednesday in the Shark Tank when visiting Colorado eliminates San Jose at SAP Center. In some fashion, the Avalanche victory will be authored by MacKinnon, who some argue is the greatest player in hockey today. "It's been punch, counterpunch, punch," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said of the Western Conference Second Round after Game 6 on Monday, having just seen Colorado stave off elimination with a 4-3 overtime win at Pepsi Center. On Wednesday, the Avalanche will be the last ones standing. Final score: Avalanche 5, Sharks 3