W2W4: Lightning at Rangers, Game 7

NEW YORK -- Game 7. Enough said.

Still, we’ll give you more. Here's what to watch for in the final game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers, with a berth in the Stanley Cup finals on the line Friday night (8 ET) at Madison Square Garden:

Hank's moment: Game 7 is Henrik Lundqvist time. He has six consecutive wins in Game 7s, which is a playoff record. His six career Game 7 wins are tied with Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur for the most by a goalie.

For his career, he’s 6-1 in Game 7s, with a 0.97 goals-against average and .966 save percentage.

And, according to Elias Sports, he’s 10-0 with a 0.96 goals-against average and .968 save percentage at home when facing elimination dating to the 2008 playoffs.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault pointed to the goalie’s incredible work ethic but also to his intense mental preparation.

"This is just around the time in the day where we leave him alone now," Vigneault said, speaking in French on Friday morning about Lundqvist's mental preparation.

The sense in that Rangers room is that when Lundqvist makes big saves early in a Game 7, it plays on the minds of the opponents.

"It gives us confidence and I think it's even harder for the other team to see, well, this might be a tough night to score," winger Carl Hagelin said of his star goalie. "It just gives us that feeling that if we play well defensively, we'll get our chances and we'll get one, while the other team might start doubting themselves."

But do the Lightning care? If there’s one team in the Eastern Conference that can look at Lundqvist’s Game 7 mastery and actually view it as a delicious opportunity, it’s indeed these young, brash Lightning.

These kids are champing at the bit to make history.

Asked yet again about Lundqvist’s Game 7 numbers, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos delivered the money quote of the day.

"He’s a great goalie. He’s never played the Tampa Bay Lightning in a Game 7 before," Stamkos said Friday morning.


These Tampa kids have an edge about them that’s infectious. I’ve said it before, but it reminds me a bit of the rising Edmonton Oilers of the early 1980s and the healthy cockiness they carried. It was so refreshing at the time.

More recently, you can point to the Chicago Blackhawks. Remember when Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews suggested during the 2013 Stanley Cup finals that they would target Zdeno Chara?

You get that same feeling from these Bolts.

The only question is whether they’re ready yet for this moment, or whether Friday night is a tough lesson from the seasoned, veteran Rangers before they come back for more next season.

Rangers confident, non-Lundqvist division: It’s not just Lundqvist. As a team, these Rangers have dominated in this situation. And that feeds their confidence ahead of Game 7.

"We know we’ve been good in these situations before," Hagelin said Friday morning. "We know we have another level within ourselves and within this locker room, and that’s what we have to reach tonight.

"Any time you’ve done something before, it becomes more of a habit. It becomes something where you feel like you’re good at it because you’ve done it before. That definitely gives you confidence."

Rangers fourth-liner Tanner Glass played in two Game 7s with the Vancouver Canucks in 2011, an overtime win over Chicago and a loss in the last game of the season to the Boston Bruins in the Cup finals. There were lessons from both.

"It’s tight," he said Friday morning. "The small plays can make the difference in the whole game. You have to be focused on every little detail. But you also have to have fun and enjoy it."

Bolts have Game 7 success too: Lost in the Rangers Game 7 narrative, none other than Tampa coach Jon Cooper pointed out Friday morning that he has guys who enjoy this Game 7 thing too.

"I respect what the Rangers have done in their elimination games, or whatever you call them, over the last few years," said Cooper.

"Well, I think I said this the other day, against us in this place, we're 0-0. But if you go through -- I mean, I know a lot of it has been centered on the Rangers, but go through a few of our players and add up their Game 7 
numbers, which I'm sure a lot of guys will do after this press conference ends, you might be fairly impressed. Has Anton Stralman ever lost a Game 7? Has Matt Carle? Keep going down the list."

Stralman is a 6-0 in Game 7s, Carle is 4-0, Brian Boyle is 5-0, Ryan Callahan is 4-1 and Braydon Coburn is 4-1.

Not bad indeed.

Bench bosses: The Rangers’ Vigneault is 5-1 in Game 7s. Tampa’s Cooper will be making only his second Game 7 appearance. The Lightning have taken on Cooper’s outgoing personality, and the team is no doubt a confident group going into Friday’s game.

“It’s been great,” Boyle said. “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s a little bit of a different approach, but he’s probably more approachable than any other coach. He wants to win as bad as any of them, and he demands it. He’s equally demanding.”

Boyle’s relationship with Cooper is a bit different from most on the team because of his veteran status, but having that voice in the room has helped the coach.

“It’s been a blast -- it really has,” Boyle said. “It’s hard to say anything different, and we want to keep it going.”

Vigneault has plenty of experience in these situations. On Friday, he appeared as if it was any other game day.

“He’s a calm guy, a calm coach, but he’s doing it the right way,” said Hagelin. “When he needs to step up and yell at us, he’ll do that, but he also knows when to sit back and let the players do the talking.”

Bumps and bruises: No doubt most players are dealing with bumps, bruises and breaks at this time of the season, but with a berth to the Stanley Cup finals on the line, those injuries become an afterthought.

“I feel great,” Boyle said with a smile. “I have a great trainer in the summer. I have a wife that makes sure I eat the right way, even if I don’t want to sometimes, and we’ve got a great trainer here. You push yourself and understand that sometimes it’s mind over matter -- a lot of times it is. If you take care of yourself the right way, your body is equipped to do some pretty cool things. There are guys that have played a lot of games and they keep going."

For Tampa, the flu bug recently wreaked havoc in the locker room and players have been fighting through it, but Cooper said Friday it’s no longer an issue.

“All good today,” he said.

Projected lineups


Alex Killorn-Valtteri Filppula-Steven Stamkos

Ondrej Palat-Tyler Johnson-Nikita Kucherov

Brenden Morrow-Brian Boyle-Ryan Callahan

Cedric Paquette-J.T. Brown

Victor Hedman-Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison-Braydon Coburn

Matt Carle-Andrej Sustr

Nikita Nesterov

Ben Bishop


Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-J.T. Miller

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Jesper Fast

Carl Hagelin-Kevin Hayes-Martin St. Louis

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-James Sheppard

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist