Game seven between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers takes place tonight, with both teams facing a win-or-go-home scenario.
The game takes place at the Consol Energy Center and is scheduled to start at 00:00 BST.
The game is streaming live online with bet365.
Preview (Series currently level at 3-3):
LAST GAME – New York 3 Pittsburgh 1
PENGUINS EXPECTED LINES: Kunitz – Crosby – Malkin / Jokinen – Sutter – Neal / Bennett – Vitale – Stempniak / Gibbons – Goc – Adams EXPECTED PAIRINGS: Letang – Martin / Maatta – Niskanen / Scuderi – Bortuzzo EXPECTED GOALTENDER: Fleury
With their 3-1 series advantage but a distant memory, the Pittsburgh Penguins will look to prevent one of the biggest collapses in their franchise history on Tuesday night, and advance through to the Conference Final for a second consecutive season, as they play host to the New York Rangers in game seven.
Whereas the problems of some teams require a full and thorough dissection, it is readily apparent what about the Pittsburgh Penguins has malfunctioned in these playoffs. Captain Sidney Crosby has just 1 goal (1-8) in 12 games to this point, and is a -3, a stat line which wouldn’t be so terrible, were not such great things expected of him. The best player in the game has managed just four points in these series with the Rangers, and hasn’t registered a point in two consecutive Penguins losses. This is in spite of being played on a line with Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin, a trio which should be loaded for scoring bear. Instead, head coach Dan Bylsma has gotten nothing from the group, and that has spelled trouble for the reeling Pens.
What’s more, it appears as though New York have found a way to exploit goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury again, after it looked like the goaltender had found a way out of his early-playoff struggles. Fleury has allowed 7 goals on 56 shots in the last two games, and though much of the Penguins defensive problems have to do with the injury absence of shut-down blue liner Brooks Orpik, there have been some goals that simply can’t go in. The Rangers aren’t a particularly proficient offensive team, but they are good enough to exploit any perceived weaknesses, and there is perhaps no greater chink in the armor than the Penguins defense and goaltending right now.
RANGERS EXPECTED LINES: Nash – Stepan – Kreider / Hagelin – Richards – St. Louis / Pouliot – Brassard – Zuccarello / Boyle – Moore – Dorsett EXPECTED PAIRINGS: McDonagh – Girardi / Stralman – Staal / Klein – J. Moore EXPECTED GOALTENDER: Lundqvist
On the back of a pair of excellent performances in games 5 and 6, the New York Rangers have managed to claw their way back into their second round series with Pittsburgh, and now find themselves on the brink of a big upset in game seven. All it’ll take is one more stellar team effort, and they will be off to their second conference final in three years.
The Rangers have certainly gotten an emotional boost from veteran Martin St. Louis, who overcame the loss of his mother late last week to put in strong performances in games 5 and 6. Head coach Alain Vigneault had moved St. Louis onto a line with former Tampa Bay teammate Brad Richards, and energy man Carl Hagelin, and the trio combined for 2 of the team’s three goals in Sunday’s victory. What’s more, the return from injury of young Chris Kreider has enabled Vigneault to spread the scoring wealth around the Rangers wings; regular season leading scorer Mats Zuccarello is now on the third line, where he looked solid with Benoit Pouliot and Derick Brassard on Sunday.
The one catalyst the Rangers can always turn to is goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, whose 37-save effort on Sunday was nothing short of heroic. What’s more, the Rangers veteran is one of the best game 7 goaltenders in NHL history; in his last four game 7’s, he is 4-0, with a 0.75 goals against average and a .973 save percentage. These are otherworldly numbers, and demonstrate how clutch the superstar Swede is in these situations for New York. They will need to be a hero again if they are to take game seven.
BOTTOM LINE: Game sevens are where reputations are made (or broken). The Penguins are a team which famously won the first Stanley Cup of the Crosby/Malkin era in a game seven back in 2009, but they have lost in both game sevens they have been in (2010 vs. Montreal, 2011 vs. Tampa Bay) since then.
The Rangers, on the other hand, have a guy like Lundqvist, who is one of the most clutch game seven goaltenders in the history of the league, to fall back on. They also have momentum, which they have built up by stymieing Crosby and Malkin over the last couple games, and finding weaknesses to exploit in Fleury and the Penguins D. And when it comes down to it, they’re a deeper team up front. They can roll three solid scoring lines, while it seems that Pittsburgh can only really count on their second line for production right now. That could spell doom for Pittsburgh, and a Conference Final berth for the upstart New York Rangers.