There is nothing better than a Game 7 in NHL playoff hockey, especially when it is staged between two bitter rivals. This Tuesday night at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers will try and complete a miraculous comeback from a 3-1 hole with a victory over the Penguins in a winner-take-all contest.
Doc’s Sports has already posted the NHL betting odds for this Metropolitan Division Final matchup, and in what should come as no great surprise, the Rangers have been opened as +145 road underdogs with Pittsburgh listed as a -160 home favorite. The total line for this game has once again been set at five, just as it has been in the first six meetings.
There is no doubt that the odds are stacked against another New York upset, but here are five reasons why the Rangers still have a good shot to win this game.
The Big M
Momentum in any sporting event is huge, but when it comes to playoff hockey, it can take on a life of its own. Just ask this year’s Los Angeles Kings, who erased a 0-3 hole in their opening-round series against the San Jose Sharks with four straight victories, including a 5-1 rout in a deciding Game 7.
The Rangers are looking to win three in a row after falling into their 3-1 hole. They started the comeback with a 5-1 triumph of their own in Game 5 and then followed that up with this past Sunday’s 3-1 victory in Game 6.
New York had the slight 34-32 edge in shots on goal in Game 5, but it was outshot by Pittsburgh 37-29 on Sunday night. The key to the win was the Rangers jumping out to a 2-0 lead. Even though that deficit was cut in half later in the first period, it was enough to keep the Penguins off balance all night long.
A Hot Goalie
Success in the Stanley Cup playoffs often revolves around the play of a team’s goalie. The Rangers have one of the best in the NHL in Henrik Lundqvist, but he looked pretty average against Pittsburgh in the first four games of this series by allowing 10 goals against 112 shots on goal. Over the past two games, however, he has stopped 67 of the 69 shots he has faced.
In direct contrast, Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury came up huge in his team’s three wins in this series by allowing a total of two goals while stopping 70 of the 72 shots he faced. His confidence has to be somewhat rattled after getting tagged for seven goals on 63 shots on goal in his last two starts.
If you take a look at Covers' betting trends for this matchup, you would find that the road team in this division rivalry has won five of the last seven meetings. The Rangers' overall trends do not paint a pretty picture with a 6-13 record in the last 19 meetings overall, but the 2-0 record in the last two meetings is all that really matters right now.
In what turned out to be one of the bigger trades this season in the NHL, Martin St. Louis came to the Rangers in March in exchange for fan favorite and team captain Ryan Callahan, who was shipped over to the Lightning. The love affair with the New York fans definitely took some time to develop, but it was alive and well in Sunday’s Game 6.
St. Louis came into that matchup with a heavy heart after his mother unexpectedly passed away just three days prior. Bolstered by the chants from the hometown crowd, he scored a goal just three-and-half minutes into the game to give the Rangers the early lead, which they never relinquished. This is the kind of raw emotion that could easily carry over into Tuesday night.
The Pressure of Losing a Game 7
You have to believe that New York is playing with house money right now after opening this series as a prohibitive underdog to advance past this round. The gap between the Rangers and the East’s No. 1 seed was extremely apparent early in this series, even after the Penguins lost the series opener 3-2 in overtime. They quickly responded with three straight dominant victories in which they outscored New York 9-2.
The past two games have obviously closed this gap, and now the pressure switches to the Pens, who are in real danger of suffering an epic collapse. Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby has tallied just one goal in 12 playoff games, and, as I have already mentioned, Fleury does not look nearly as steady between the pipes as he did earlier in this series or in the series against Columbus in the opening round.