NHL Playoffs 2014: Predictions for Tuesday's Stanley Cup Round 2 Matchups

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NHL Playoffs 2014: Predictions for Tuesday's Stanley Cup Round 2 Matchups
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For the fifth time in their past seven postseason series, the New York Rangers will play a Game 7, this time against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center.

The Rangers have won two straight since falling behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series. They are 4-0 in their most recent Game 7s, while the Penguins are repeating their first-round collapse against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011. The Penguins led that series 3-1 before losing three straight, including Game 7 at home.

"It is a pressure situation, but at the same time you look at it as a great opportunity," Lundqvist said to the media Monday about Game 7s. "As a group, you need to go out there and feel good about yourself. Theres no second-guessing, you just go out and play your absolute best and you see if its enough or not. You cant play that game and kind of analyze it as you play. You just go out and do what youve tried to do all year and not overthink it."

The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks arent at a Game 7 yet, but its a must-win game for the Wild.

The Blackhawks won 2-1 in Game 5 in Chicago, continuing a trend of the home team winning every game in this series. The Wild will need to keep that going in order to force a Game 7 back at the United Center.

Here are three storylines and a prediction for both games on the schedule Tuesday.

 

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Which Marc-Andre Fleury will show up?

Fleury hasnt been anywhere near the mess he was in the previous two postseasons, but he has had his moments of inconsistency. Sure, he had back-to-back shutouts in this series, but he allowed soft goals to Mats Zuccarello in Game 5 and Carl Hagelin and Derick Brassard in Game 6.

If the sloppy, unreliable Fleury is on the scene for Game 7, the Penguins likely wont be able to overcome it.

 

Are the Rangers invincible in Game 7s?

Since 2012, the Rangers are 4-0 in their most recent Game 7s with one of the victories coming on the road last year against the Washington Capitals. They won Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round this year.

That success is largely due to Henrik Lundqvist, who has been phenomenal when the chips are down in the postseason. Hes 4-1 lifetime in Game 7s and has allowed five total goals in those games. In his past 11 games facing elimination, Lundqvist is 9-2 with a 1.35 goals-against average and .955 save percentage.

 

Will Sidney Crosby rise to the occasion?

It’s been an awfully strange postseason for the game’s best player.

Crosby was held scoreless in the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets but was a very dangerous player throughout the series. After a poor Game 1 against the Rangers, he was outstanding in Game 2 and scored in Game 3. But he was a non-factor in Games 5 and 6 and showed signs of frustration Sunday.

If he can finish his prime scoring chances in Game 7, the Penguins will be back in the conference final for a second straight year.

 

Prediction: Rangers 4, Penguins 2

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

 

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild

Can the Wild be beaten at home?

Some teams downplay home-ice advantage in the playoffs, and rightfully so, as it’s not much of an advantage for some of them.

That’s not the case with the Wild, who are 5-0 at Xcel Energy Center with some dominant numbers to boot, outscoring their opponents by a 16-5 total. The Blackhawks lost more games than they won on the road in the regular season, so something needs to change if Chicago wants to avoid a seventh game.

 

Will Chicago’s power play click again?

After a three-game drought, the Blackhawks converted on a power play in Game 5 that drew them into a 1-1 tie in the second period. Jonathan Toews would score the winner in the third period, but the power-play goal was huge.

They’ve won their past four games in which they’ve scored a power-play goal, which puts extra emphasis on converting in what will be a tough environment.

 

What will Ilya Bryzgalov do?

In his past three elimination games, Bryzgalov hasn’t exactly been rock solid.

He is 0-3 and has allowed 14 goals in those losses. His .882 save percentage in those losses isn’t going to cut it against the Blackhawks. But this is Bryzgalov, who is about as predictable as the winning lottery numbers.

The Wild have been excellent on home ice this postseason, but they’ll need to build a wall around Bryzgalov in order to get to a seventh game in Chicago.

 

Prediction: Blackhawks 4, Wild 3, OT

 

Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.

All statistics via NHL.com and Extra Skater.

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