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Rangers and Caps set for another classic Game 7 matchup at the Garden

Bobby Bevilacqua

ryan mcdonagh vs alex ovechkin 5-10

Ryan McDonagh and Alex Ovechkin, the two captains, will match up one last time in a deciding Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

It all comes down to one. For the third time in four years, the Rangers and Capitals will play in a Game 7, this time at Madison Square Garden. The winner goes on to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals, and the team anguished in defeat goes home for the summer. In the words of Rangers’ head coach Alain Vigneault, “It doesn’t get much better than Game 7.”

When it looked like the Rangers were on the brink of elimination in Game 5, Chris Kreider scored with 1:41 left in the third period to send it into overtime, with Ryan McDonagh the hero in the end. They then got it done at the Verizon Center, with two goals from Chris Kreider, and one each by Rick Nash and Dan Boyle, backed up by 42 saves from Henrik Lundqvist.

All of these events sets the scene for a classic Game 7 at Madison Square Garden, “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” a place where the Rangers have won all six Game 7s in their franchise history.

Over the last three seasons, the Rangers have won their last five Game 7s, and could set an NHL record with a win tonight. In their last 16 elimination games, the Rangers are 13-3, largely due to the play of Henrik Lundqvist, who is always cool, calm and collected even when placed in the most unnerving situations.

Henrik Lundqvist will always be the most important player for the Rangers on any given night, and he’s been a huge reason for the Rangers’ playoff success for many years now. In the last 16 elimination games, all started by Lundqvist, he is 13-3 with a 1.42 GAA, a .955 save percentage, and two shutouts. In his last five Game 7s, Lundqvist has a .80 GAA, stopping 144-148 shots he’s faced for a .973 save percentage. The Rangers will need that Lundqvist to show up tonight.

henrik lundqvist 5-8

Henrik Lundqvist has been the Rangers’ backbone for many years, and the team will need him to carry his past success in elimination games into the Garden tonight. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 While there is obviously pressure on both teams, a lot of the pressure has to be on Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. Since Ovechkin came into the league in 2005, he’s been one of the best players in the world, but that hasn’t translated into Stanley Cup success.

After the Game 6 loss, Ovechkin said that the Capitals would “come back and win the series.” That’s the right thing to say as captain, to promote an aura of positivity in the locker room, but it puts a lot of pressure on the team to back up his words. The team seemed a bit rattled after the Game 6 loss, saying they’ll win, saying Holtby is the better goalie and other things liked that. The Rangers let them say what they wanted, didn’t retaliate, and will look to let their game do the talking for them.

Speaking of Ovechkin, after scoring a goal in Game 1, Ovechkin skated around Lundqvist and yelled , “All series baby. All series. All series.” But after scoring two goals and an assist in the first two games, Ovechkin has been held pointless since, and has not been nearly as effective as he was early in the series. But he’s still a player that’s capable of taking over any game. He’ll be motivated to try and win, and the Rangers will need to keep a very close eye on him.

In Game 6, Rick Nash was finally able to break through with his first meaningful goal of the playoffs, giving the Rangers a 3-1 lead less than a minute into the final period. He’s had his chances in the series, but was denied by Holtby on several occasions. To combat Ovechkin’s flurry of shots on goal, Nash will have to do exactlythat. Pour shots on net, go for deflections, dirty goals, rebounds, and get to the front of the net. He’s pressured Holtby all series, all while playing a phenomenal two way game, and he will need to deliver again tonight.

rick nash 5-10

Rick Nash delivered a huge goal on Sunday night at the Verizon Center to help the Rangers stave off elimination. Can he do it again tonight? Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

 Perhaps the most important Ranger not named Henrik Lundqvist is Chris Kreider. Since coming into the league during the 2012 playoffs, Kreider has been a big time performer, and he’s been the best player in this series by a longshot. He has four goals in this series, with the Rangers winning all three games that he has scored against the Capitals. His unique blend of size and speed makes him “a freak of nature” as teammate Dan Girardi said. He’s one of the fastest players in the entire league, can fend off anyone with his strength, and will be a factor tonight.

The last 13 playoff games for the Rangers, including all 11 during these playoffs, have been decided by one goal. So you can bet that tonight’s game will be an exciting, heart pumping, tight-checking game between two good teams.

The Rangers and the Capitals will faceoff at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 PM. The Game will be broadcasted on NBCSN.

EXPECTED LINEUP (Not Confirmed)

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Martin St. Louis

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Jesper Fast

Carl Hagelin-Dominic Moore-Kevin Hayes

Tanner Glass-James Sheppard-JT Miller

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqivst

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Posted on May 13, 2015, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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