Hockey fans across the country are in for a real treat this weekend as we have back-to-back Game 7’s on our hands beginning with tonight’s do or die tilt between the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Rangers thumped Tampa Bay on Wednesday night to send the series back to Madison Square Garden where they have the opportunity of winning their fifth straight elimination game. The Rangers blowout victory in Game 6 came out of absolutely no where as it appeared their scoring had dried up and Tampa Bay looked unstoppable, but there are no givens in playoff hockey and New York exploded for seven goals and chased Ben Bishop from the net in the process. While tonight’s game certainly will not be that high-scoring it should be real interesting to see how this game plays out. Let’s take a closer look at the game and grab ourselves a winner heading towards tomorrow night’s Game 7 between Anaheim and Chicago.
Tampa Bay Lightning @ New York Rangers
My Pick – UNDER 5 (-115)
Although Game 6 produced a whopping ten goals, I am not going to let that high-scoring game cloud my opinion of these two teams. Yes, I have raved all year long about how powerful the Lightning offense can be and we also saw how good the Rangers can be up front on Wednesday night as well, however in Game 7 situations I feel there is less risk to take and the goaltending is set to shine on Broadway this evening. Henrik Lundqvist has been almost unbeatable in Game 7’s in his career as the Swedish netminder is 6-0 with a 0.81 goals against average and a .973 save percentage over his last six Game 7’s. Those six Game 7 wins are tied with Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur for most in NHL history and the six consecutive Game 7 wins are also an NHL record. On the other side, the Lightning have won two of three games in New York in this series and that is in large part to the play of Bishop in goal. While he has allowed 15 goals in his last three games at home, the towering goaltender has surrendered just four goals in his last three games at MSG including a 2-0 shutout of the Rangers in Game 5. Also, after a loss in this postseason Bishop is 6-1 with a 1.42 goals against average and a .945 save percentage, so it appears bouncing back from a poor effort is in this guy’s DNA. Again, with all of goal scoring Tampa can provide and the talent the Rangers boast up front that should provide some scoring, Game 7’s are a whole different cat and it is usually the time when the goaltending and the shutdown defensemen come out to play. Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh will be that pair for the Rangers while Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman will likely take on those duties for the Lightning and I have the upmost confidence in both pairings to do their job this evening. Take the UNDER 5 tonight and enjoy a fantastic atmosphere from the most famous sports arena in the world.