At a glance: Is anyone really that surprised that this series will end with a do-or-die, winner-takes-all Game 7?
Trading wins throughout the series, the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers meet in New York on Wednesday to decide who will move on to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Home-ice advantage: Though the Rangers have lost 12 consecutive games when leading in a playoff series, including three times this set against Philly, they have one statistic from which they can draw some confidence: The Rangers have never lost a Game 7 on home ice, with a 5-0 record at Madison Square Garden. Meanwhile, the Flyers have the best record of any NHL team that has played more than 10 Game 7’s, with a pretty formidable 9-6 record. The Flyers have also won their past three Game 7’s, with their last loss dating back to the 2004 Eastern Conference finals.
Heating up: Here is what should scare the Blueshirts as they face potential elimination Wednesday: After underperforming through much of the series, the Flyers’ top players came to play Tuesday night. Wayne Simmonds recorded his first playoff hat trick, captain Claude Giroux finished the evening with three points and goaltender Steve Mason was absolutely stellar in only his third start of the series.
Battle in nets: Speaking of Mason, he got the best of Henrik Lundqvist on Tuesday night. His spectacular 34-save performance ended with the Wells Fargo Center crowd chanting his name and roaring in approval during the final minute of play. Meanwhile, Lundqvist surrendered four goals on 23 shots in two periods, prompting coach Alain Vigneault to replace the former Vezina Trophy winner with backup Cam Talbot for the third period.
Power outage: Despite an improved power play that was one of the team’s strengths during the regular season, New York has struggled mightily this series. The Flyers have stopped the Rangers on 20 straight power-play attempts, siphoning both confidence and momentum with their superb penalty-killing efforts. Meanwhile, the Flyers have posted an impressive 6-for-19 record with the man-advantage, second only to Boston among all playoff teams.