The first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs gifted hockey fans with five Game 7s -- a thrilling conclusion to the initial set of matchups. Of the four second-round series, there will be only one Game 7, and we're here to make sure you're ready for it.
The Carolina Hurricanes are hosting the New York Rangers (8 p.m. ET Monday, ESPN), and the home team has won each game in this series. (In fact, the home team has won every game in which the Hurricanes have played this postseason, which has set an NHL record.)
Will the trend continue? Or will the Rangers steal one in Raleigh? The winner will move on to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals. Here's what you need to know:
Line: CAR -150 | Over/under: 5.5
Path to victory for the Rangers
The games in Raleigh haven't exactly been blowouts. Heck, the Rangers had Game 1 in their hands, before the Hurricanes found their game in the third period, tied the score with less than three minutes remaining and won it in overtime. Game 2 was lopsided in the flow of play, but essentially a one-bounce game on the scoreboard. Ditto for Game 5, as Carolina had only a one-goal lead deep in the third period.
The Rangers have to create more quality 5-on-5 chances against this defense; Carolina has had the high-danger scoring chances advantage in all three home games. Do that and get a bounce or two and they can win Game 7. Especially if Igor Shesterkin continues his quietly great road efforts in this series: .955 save percentage, 1.16 goals against average, 3.26 goals saved above replacement. And if he wants to contribute two more assists to the Rangers' offense, all the better. -- Wyshynski
Path to victory for the Hurricanes
If the previous 13 games are any indication, the path to victory is the road through Raleigh. While they're now 0-6 on the road, the Hurricanes are 7-0 at home with a plus-17 goal differential, 3.57 goals per game and a 1.14 goals against average. They're just a different team at home, in every facet of the game.
The penalty kill that couldn't stop the Rangers at Madison Square Garden has an 89.5% effectiveness in Raleigh. The power play that couldn't get a critical goal in Game 6 has a 4.2% conversion rate on the road and a 19.2% conversion rate at home. The Hurricanes control the game for stretches at home; have better defensive support in front of their goaltending, which has been noticeably stronger at home; and exhibit a physicality that they lack on the road -- all in front of rowdy fans who know they're part of that home-ice advantage.
"We hope it's a factor. Obviously, it's been good to us. So we're counting on it again, for sure," Carolina coach Rod Brind'Amour said. -- Wyshynski
Shilton's X factor: The Rangers' "Kid Line" was reunited to great success at home in Game 6. If the Rangers are going to advance, they will need to be a dominant force again in Game 7. New York has scored two total goals in three away games during this series. Filip Chytil tallied a pair in the Game 6 victory while reunited on a line with Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko after not lighting the lamp since Game 1. It's a real shot in the arm to the Rangers' confidence at a critical moment of the playoffs to see that line vibing again.
Given the roller coaster those three players have been on in this series -- along with the rest of New York's offense -- stringing together two strong performances that could potentially play a pivotal role in lifting the Rangers into the Eastern Conference finals would be massive.
Wyshynski's X factor: Carolina's special teams.
The key to the Hurricanes' penalty kill is to not have to use it. Carolina won the first two games in Raleigh with the Rangers having gone 0-for-5 with the man advantage. Since then, the Rangers are 5-for-16, scoring at least one power-play goal in every contest since Game 2. Even though they converted a short-handed goal in Game 5, the Hurricanes absolutely must stay disciplined.
If the Rangers take a penalty, then Carolina's power play becomes the ultimate X factor. The Rangers have killed off 13 of 14 power plays in this series. The one they didn't was a critical goal in Game 5, giving Carolina a second-period lead. Getting anything from the power play in Game 7 could be a tipping point for the Canes.
Final score predictions:
Shilton: Rangers, 3-2
Wyshynski: Hurricanes, 2-1