Contrary to the first round of the NHL postseason, round two’s victors was decided rather quickly — well, with the exception of the last spot in the conference finals. The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers have battled to a decisive seventh gave Saturday night, which will already be the fourth of such situations in 2012.
So, who holds the advantage heading into the contest? I’ll let you make that decision, but here are a few of the keys that I find most relevant in the matchup.
I’ve been saying it all series, but what an intriguing matchup between the pipes in this series. On one end you have the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, who is undeniably one of the most dominant netminders in the NHL — and has been for years. He has started well over 500 games in his career, including 48 in the postseason. In stark contrast, the Capitals’ Braden Holtby is new to this starting goalie role. He took over late in the season following an injury and had made just 18 starts before the playoffs began. But, shockingly, the veteran hasn’t overwhelmed the youngster. Entering game seven, both goaltenders are allowing below two goals per contest and are sending away more than 93 percent of opponent snipes — some of the best numbers in the league. So, who do you like in this one? It’s easy to assume that Lundqvist will be more mentally prepared, but don’t count out Holtby.
2. Home Ice
Madison Square Garden, one of the more notable venue’s in professional sports, will play host to the decisive game in this second round tussle. It’s fitting, right? There aren’t many places that fans would rather witness a game of this magnitude — especially for those that root for New York. But, will it provide the advantage that the Rangers need to prevail? Well, New York has certainly dominated at home in 2012. They were 27-12-2 at MSG in the regular season and have so far won four of seven in the playoffs. And, more importantly, the Rangers have never lost a game seven in front of their home crowd (4-0). However, Washington is no stranger to the big stage on the road. The Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden three times in the first round series, including in game seven.
3. Game 7′s History
I’m not someone that typically looks too deep into the history involved in the postseason because every year is different. However, in this instance it of some importance to note. New York has a huge advantage if history is any indication. This is because team’s that build a 3-2 series lead have won their series nearly 80 percent of the time. Take that number and combine it with the veteran presence on the ice along with the theoretical home ice advantage and this could be the Rangers game to win.
Prediction: Expect another low scoring, grind-it-out kind of game. Rangers excel in these situations — New York 2, Washington 1.