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Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 7 Tripleheader Preview

by Photo of Gil Santos

A look at tonight’s three Game 7’s in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 7 Tripleheader Preview

With the New York Rangers failing to close out the Philadelphia Flyers last night, we have three great Game 7 match-ups on tap for tonight. Let's take a gander at these trio of do-or-die games and potential x-factors that could determine the outcomes of these contests:   

Philadelphia Flyers at New York Rangers

The Skinny: On the back of Wayne Simmonds' first career playoff hat-trick, the Flyers forced the series back to Madison Square Garden for a pivotal Game 7. The Rangers now have lost their last 12 games when they have a series lead. Simmonds believes the momentum is now in Philadelphia's favor, but in this series, it hasn't mattered as neither team has won two games in a row. The Flyers hold a 9-6 record all-time in Game 7's  and are 3-3 on the road. The Blue Shirts are a perfect 5-0 at the Garden, but are just 6-5 in do-or-die games. 

The Rangers must stay out of the penalty as they clearly been the better 5-on-5 team all series. The Blue Shirts have outscored the Flyers in even strength, 13-5 and have attempted 52% of the shots. Also, they need to solve their power play woes. They have not converted on their last 20 man advantages and are 3-28 on the power play for the series. 

The Flyers' blue line must stand strong. They turned the puck over way too much in their zone and while it didn't hurt them in Game 6, it will likely come back to bite them in Game 7. 

X-Factors:

Rangers - Henrik Lundqvist: The Rangers' netminder came up real small in Game 6 but he has a chance for redemption tonight. The Rangers won't advance if Lundqvist is not on his "A" game and if he wants to be considered one of the greats, he needs to come through for his team. 

Flyers - Scott Hartnell: The Flyers' third-best scorer in the regular season has been pretty quiet offensively, which earned him a demotion to the second line. With no goals in the series thus far, Game 7 would be the perfect time for Hartnell to finally to get one and break the hearts of Rangers' fans. 

Minnesota Wild at Colorado Avalanche 

The Skinny: The Wild should probably be already in the second round if it weren't for two horrific missed calls in Game 5. But now that is in the past, the Wild have a chance to pull off the upset in Denver. Avalanche's head coach Patrick Roy has seen this story before. His final game as a player was against these same Wild in a loss in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoff quarterfinals. Could it be deja vu for Roy and his Avalanche? 

In this series, the Wild have been dominant in terms of possession especially in 5-on-5 situations. The Wild feasted on the Avalanche's weak defense, attempting 57.3% of the shots so far. Zach Parise is playing at a very high-level, recording points in all six games and leading the way in points (10) and goals (3) for the Wild. 

While they are getting crushed in possession, the Avs are in this series mainly because of goaltender Semyon Varlamov and forward Nathan MacKinnon. Varlamov has been the Avs' most valuable player all season, so it's no surprise he is playing well so far. However, the play of  MacKinnon has people turning their heads. Despite being just 18 years old and playing in his first career postseason, MacKinnon has looked like a veteran. The Calder Trophy finalist has made plays all over the ice and paces the Avs in points with 10. 

X-Factors:

Wild - Darcy Kuemper: The rookie has played well since taking over for veteran Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes. But can he withstand the pressure of a Game 7 on the road? 

Avalanche - Matt Duchene: The Avs' best player finally made his playoff debut in Game 6 after sitting out for almost a month with a MCL injury. Duchene is still trying to get back into game shape, but it will be interesting to see if he can make an impact in this pivotal situation. 

Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks

The Skinny: The Kings are just the ninth team in postseason history to force a Game 7 after being down 3-0. Now they have a chance to become the fourth squad to complete the comeback. Coincidentally, the Kings' Mike Richards and Jeff Carter (though he was injured) were on the 2010 Flyers, the last team to accomplish that feat. However, the Sharks have been in this situation before. In 2011, they squandered a 3-0 lead to the Detroit Red Wings but still won the series. Also, the Sharks have not lost a Game 7 in the SAP Center. 

San Jose looked like world beaters and true Stanley Cup contenders in the first three games, combining for 17 goals. They looked too fast for the Kings' defense and everyone was contributing. However, the Kings tightened up on defense and all of the scoring went away especially from their top players. They'll need their best players to be at their best if they want to have a chance. Also, they need to push the pace again and make it more an open ice hockey game. 

For the Kings, they have gotten back to their game of forechecking the opponent to death and playing strong defense. Goaltender Jonathan Quick looks to be back in form as he has just allowed one goal in the last two games. They have all the momentum now and they just need to up the pressure. The first goal is extremely important for both teams tonight and if the Kings strike first, they could potentially kill of the Sharks' confidence. 

X-Factors:

Sharks - Joe Thornton: As the captain, Jumbo Joe needs to set the tone for this Sharks' team tonight. Thornton has been awfully quiet since Game 3 with no points in his last three games. The Sharks need him to produce in any way, whether it's scoring a goal or setting up one. He needs to do it now. 

Kings - Marion Gaborik: Gaborik has been pretty good for the Kings in this series, tallying up three goals in six games. But this is the situation the Kings brought him in for. When they need a quick goal, Gaborik has the ability to do that. 

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