Pregame Skate: Two Game 7s in one night? Yes please!
If you couldn't get enough of Wednesday's Game 7, there are two more coming your way on Thursday with Senators-Rangers and then Devils-Panthers.
7 ET, Ottawa at Rangers, Game 7 (NBC Sports Network)
This is the first Game 7 at Madison Square Garden since 1995 when the Pacers beat the Knicks in basketball. An arena with two tenants and it's been 17 years between any Game 7s.
For the last time the Rangers hosted a Game 7 you have to go back just a little further. I'm sure Rangers fans remember that one, the final game of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. In total, the Rangers are 3-0 in Game 7s held at their barn off Broadway.
The Senators haven't had the same kind of success in the series finales in their relatively short history. They are 0-for-4 in the dramatic battles.
How does any of that affect the game to be played on Thursday night? It doesn't, not in the least. It just makes for an interesting narrative.
The more pertinent issue at hand is whether or not the Rangers will make history, the bad kind. With the No. 1 seed in the West, the Vancouver Canucks, already knocked out, this could be the first time under the current playoff format that both No. 1 seeds lost in the first round.
At this point, it's really anybody's guess which way this game is going to play out. This has been a series without much of a consistent flow to it, except the fact that the goaltending has been very good. Craig Anderson has matched or possibly even bettered Henrik Lundqvist all series long. That wasn't supposed to happen. The Rangers have needed somebody on the offensive side to step up and they might have found that in Game 6.
Brad Richards was brought to New York for the big games and moments like this. He has a Conn Smythe to his credit, he is an offensive threat. So it was a welcome site to see how Richards played with the Rangers facing elimination in Game 6. It would be ideal for them to get an equally strong performance from their key offseason acquisition.
The Senators need to continue to work on letting Erik Karlsson work in space. When he has been able to do what he does best and that's move the puck up ice, the Senators have flourished.
Now if that game doesn't suit your fancy or give you your fill ...
8:30 ET, New Jersey at Florida, Game 7 (NHL Network/NBC Sports Network)
Look, another Game 7! What a night when we get 2-for-1.
For the first time ever, South Florida is going to experience a Game 7 in hockey. In fact, it's only the second time in franchise history that the Panthers have played a Game 7.
But they are going to need a quick turnaround and change of the plan if they want to keep the fans into it. Because they are coming off a Game 6 loss in overtime that really wasn't that close of a game at all. It was astonishing the game made it to overtime, the Panthers were lucky to be in it. When it was all said and done the final shot totals were 42-16 in favor of the Devils. Quite frankly, I was surprised to see the Panthers had 16 shots, seemed too high.
The Devils have shown at different times in this series they are the superior team, just absolutely controlling the puck with ease. When Florida has been able to disrupt that Devils flow it has been with a good forecheck, something was seemed to be sorely lacking in Game 6. Florida just couldn't get the puck into the zone and hold it there.
Another swing that favored New Jersey in Game 6 was in the penalty department. For the most part the referees swallowed the whistles and, well, the even-strength game is going to favor New Jersey. As long as Florida has made its living on the power play in this series, scoring seven times with the man advantage. Considering Game 7s are typically called a bit looser, that is definitely going to be something to watch for. If New Jersey stays out of the penalty box, Florida will have to find a way to generate some offense at 5-on-5.
Like the Rangers above, the Devils have a player who can bust out and be the difference-maker. Ilya Kovalchuk has been a bit maligned in this series but he was superb in Game 6 for New Jersey. There's no doubt that when he's playing his best game, he's the best player on the ice in this series hands down.
One of the questions for the Panthers is who will be in net? Jose Theodore was forced to sit out Game 6 with an injury, leaving Scott Clemmensen to be the starter. It's very hard to blame Clemmensen for the Game 6 loss; he did, after all, make 39 saves in a game that went to overtime. But two of the goals he did surrender, including the game-winner, weren't the best goals in the world. They were both shots he probably feels he should have stopped.
Programming note: You'll notice the split TV coverage listed above. The game will start on NHL Network and will be joined by NBC Sports Network once the Sens-Rangers game goes final. So I hope you all have the NHL Network at home.
- Here's a simple question for the Rangers: Will Marian Gaborik show up tonight? (New York Post)
- Before tonight's games, here are your scenarios on who plays who. (ESPN.com)
- They continue to work toward a new arena in Edmonton and now there are some images available. Looks fancy. (Edmonton.ca)
- Sidney Crosby is passing on playing for Team Canada at the worlds. (Toronto Sun)
- Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and general manager George McPhee react to their team's Game 7 win on Wednesday night.
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The two teams combined for 111 penalty minutes and five ejections