It’s one game for a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals and the chance to play for hockey’s biggest prize.
That’s what the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers face tonight at Madison Square Garden in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Picking a winner at this point is pure speculation. Every game has been different and each team has its advantages.
The Lightning have the ‘Triplets’ line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, a hot captain in Steven Stamkos, an outstanding defenseman in Victor Hedman and goaltender Ben Bishop, who has stepped up whenever the season has been on the line.
The Presidents’ Trophy winning Rangers had the NHL’s best regular-season record, a 42-goal scorer in Rick Nash, a shutdown defensive duo of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi and the experience of having been to the finals just a year ago.
The difference maker also belongs to the Rangers: goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. No one is better in Game 7s than the Swede.
Lundqvist has won his last six Game 7s, posting a 0.81 goals against average, a .973 save percentage and one shutout. The six consecutive Game 7 wins are an NHL record and his Game 7 wins are tied with Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy for the most in NHL history.
Stanley Cup will open Wednesday
The Stanley Cup Final will open on Wednesday with Game 1 in New York, Tampa or Anaheim.
The NHL announced Game 1 will be at Madison Square Garden if the Rangers beat the Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final on tonight.
If the Lightning win, they’ll have home-ice advantage in the Cup final if the Blackhawks beat the Ducks in Game 7 of the West final. If the Ducks and Lightning win, Anaheim has home ice.
A week after losing out on Mike Babcock, the Buffalo Sabres went with another experienced Stanley Cup winner by hiring former Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. … The San Jose Sharks have officially hired former New Jersey and Florida coach Peter DeBoer.
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