Playoff Primer: Trio of Game 7s to finish Round 1

Playoff Primer: Trio of Game 7s to finish Round 1
April 30, 2014, 2:30 pm
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(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

The second-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins Thursday with the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins renewing hostilities at TD Garden. But before the attention shifts to Round 2, there is still one more potentially memorable night of hockey in Round 1.

For the fifth time in NHL history and for the first time since 2003, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will feature three Game 7s on the same night. Below is a closer look at each of tonight’s three matchups.
 
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS @ NEW YORK RANGERS [7:00 p.m., NBCSN]

The Flyers and Rangers will meet for the second time in as many nights after Philadelphia beat New York 5-2 last night in Game 6 at Wells Fargo Center. Wayne Simmonds had a hat-trick in the Flyers win and Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault decided to rest No.1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the third period.

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The Rangers are 5-0 all-time in Game 7s at Madison Square Garden, including a 2-1 win against the Capitals in Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals. The core of this New York team has plenty of Game 7 experience, having played in four winner-take-all games since 2009.

“There's nothing better than playing in those Game 7s when you're a part of them," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal told reporters.

Lundqvist has won three Game 7s since 2012 and has a career record of 3-1 in Game 7s with a 1.00 goals-against-average, .963 save percentage and one shutout.
Flyers goalie Steve Mason, who is 2-1 with a 1.95GAA and .939SV% after missing the start of the playoffs with an upper-body injury, will be making his NHL Game 7 debut.

The winner of tonight’s Flyers-Rangers matchup will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division Finals.

PRE-SERIES PREDICTIONS: GORMLEY: FLYERS IN 7. RABY: FLYERS IN 5
 
MINNESOTA WILD @ COLORADO AVALANCHE [9:30 p.m., CNBC]

The two leading scorers of the first-round will meet one final time as Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche play host to Zach Parise and the Wild in Denver.

The 18-year-old MacKinnon has a League-best 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) in his first six career postseason games, with a pair of three-point games and a memorable four-point outburst in Game 2. Colorado is 3-0 in the series when MacKinnon record a point and 0-3 when he doesn’t.

The 29-year-old Parise also has 10 points in Round 1, having recorded at least one point in all six games. Parise had a four-point night of his own (2 goals, 2 assists) in Minnesota’s series saving 5-2 win in Game 6.

“The aura of a Game 7 is pretty special,” Parise told reporters in Minnesota. “I’m looking forward to it a lot. They’re exciting games to play and they’re exciting games to watch. Just the magnitude of everything being on the line, they’re just fin to be a part of.”

Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov will start his fourth career Game 7, but his first since the 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinals when the Capitals fell on home ice to the Canadiens. Varlamov is 1-2 lifetime in Game 7s.

Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper, who is 3-1 with a 1.54GAA and .934SV% since taking over for Ilya Bryzgalov in Game 2, will be making his NHL Game 7 debut.
The home team has won all six games in this series and the winner of tonight’s Game 7 will meet the Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division Finals.

PRE-SERIES PREDICTIONS: GORMLEY: AVS IN 5. RABY: AVS IN 7
 
LOS ANGELES KINGS & SAN JOSE SHARKS [10:00 p.m., NBCSN]

The Sharks have the home-ice advantage, but the Kings have all the momentum, having rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to force a decisive seventh game in San Jose.

The Kings are the ninth team in NHL history to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0, and are trying to become just the fourth team in League history to complete the ultimate comeback.

San Jose was in a similar position three years ago when the Sharks built a 3-0 series lead against the Detroit Red Wings, before finally wrapping up the series with a win on home ice in Game 7.

“In my mind, if it gets to Game 7, it doesn't matter how it gets there,” Sharks forward Logan Couture told reporters after the Kings’ 4-1 win in Game 6. “It gets there, and you're going for one game. We played all year for the home ice. I'm sure our building is going to be loud. We've got to turn this thing around and win that game.”

The Sharks will again turn to veteran goalie Antti Niemi in Game 7, after head coach Todd McLellan went with backup Alex Stalock in Game 6. Niemi was also pulled in losses in Games 4 and 5. Jonathan Quick remains the undisputed No.1 for the Kings.

The winner of Game 7 between the Sharks and Kings will face the Anaheim Ducks in the Pacific Division Finals. The Kings and Ducks have never met in the postseason. If it happens, some will call it the ‘Freeway Series’… others will refer to it as the Dustin Penner Alumni Bowl.

PRE-SERIES PREDICTIONS: GORMLEY: SHARKS IN 7. RABY: KINGS IN 6

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