The Philadelphia Flyers have a 9-6 all-time record in Game 7s and have won a Game 7 in each of their last three tries. They have a 3-3 all-time record in Game 7s on the road, including wins the last two times they found themselves in that situation. They beat the New York Rangers in the teams’ previous Game 7 meeting in 1974.
The Rangers have a 6-5 all-time record in Game 7s, including wins in each their last three Game 7s. They have a 5-0 all-time record in Game 7s at Madison Square Garden. Their goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, has a 3-1 record, 1.00 goals-against average and .963 save percentage in four career Game 7 starts.
But throw away all of those and any other historic Game 7 stats the teams may own. None of them matter because Game 7s in today’s NHL are total crapshoots and anything can happen.
But, heading into tonight’s Game 7 showdown at Madison Square Garden, the Flyers have the one thing that really matters on their side and that’s the overwhelming momentum.
After beating the Rangers, 5-2, less than 24 hours ago, the Flyers have every single ounce of momentum on their side for the first time in the series, and at the series’ most important time.
That’s because it wasn’t just that the Flyers beat the Rangers last night. It was that they handily pummeled them and controlled a game like we haven’t seen them do yet in the series. It wasn’t like in Game 2 when Ray Emery held down the fort to make timely Flyers’ goals stand or in Game 4 when Steve Mason stole the win with 37 saves. Face it, the Flyers didn’t play so well in those games and were fortunate to come out with victories.
After the Flyers got a shaky first period out of the way, Game 6 last night was the total opposite story. The Flyers ran roughshod on the Rangers, left them reeling and wondering what had just hit them.
You can’t discount the effect that kind of miserable loss can take on a team just hours before its season is on the line. The Rangers are now the ones that have to regroup and make adjustments but they barely have any time to do so. The Flyers made their adjustments before Game 6 and those adjustments worked incredibly well so they are good to go.
Many – including the guy who wrote this thing you’re reading right now – moaned and complained when the NHL released the schedule for the this series before it began and noticed that Games 6 and 7 would be held on back-to-back nights in different cities if the series went that far.
Now that we are that far into the series and after what happened in Game 6, the compressed late-series schedule could be a huge benefit to the Flyers.
NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes even said it last night on the network’s recap show. When asked if he would rather have momentum or home-ice advantage in this game, he said momentum without any hesitation.
And that’s just what the Flyers have.
The Flyers also have a locked-in, confident Mason on their side after last night’s stellar, 34-save performance. He stood on his head when his team needed him, especially in the first period when he made 13 saves, and had almost every answer. His glove hand was on fire.
That’s not good news for the Rangers, who haven’t lit the world on fire offensively and have a struggling power play that is just 3-for-28 in the series and hasn’t scored in its last 20 attempts.
There are a few keys for the Flyers tonight.
First, keep the offensive juices from last night flowing. The fact that Wayne Simmonds, one of their main offensive weapons, awoke from his slumber with a hat trick in Game 6 is a huge boost.
Plus, the lines looked good and had some more flow last night as Michael Raffl moved up to the top line with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek. Scott Hartnell moved down the second line with Simmonds and Brayden Schenn while Vinny Lecavalier moved back to the fourth-line center spot. Expect to see those lines again tonight.
Second, keep the solid special-teams play up. The penalty kill was already mentioned, but the power play went 2-for-3 last night, too, courtesy of the Wayne Train.
Third, they have get off to a better start. Despite taking a lead into the first intermission for the first time in the series, the Flyers didn’t play well at all in the first period last night. Mason bailed them out with big save after big save. That can’t happen again tonight.
Puck drops at 7 p.m. at MSG. The game will be shown locally on CSN and nationally on NBCSN.
It’s Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Nothing else has to be said.