For the third time in the series, elimination is on the line.
But it’s a bit different this time, because the New York Rangers finally have some company. After forcing Game 7 on Friday night following a 3-1 series deficit, the Rangers are hoping to come out ahead against a battered Pittsburgh Penguins team that has continued to defy the odds no matter who’s on the sidelines all playoffs long.
Game 6 was wild, with the two teams sitting tied heading into the final minutes of play. The Rangers ultimately came out on top, tying the series for the first time since Game 2.
Let’s get set for what should be an intense Game 7 Sunday evening:
1. Pittsburgh Needs Clarity on Injured Players
Will we finally see Tristan Jarry in net for Pittsburgh? After a late-season injury kept him out of action for the first six games, Jarry has been practicing and hoping to get back in the crease for Game 7. The Pens have gone with third-stringer Louis Domingue ever since the second overtime of Game 1, but the results have been rather mixed.
If Jarry is healthy and ready to go, he has to be the guy. But it’s a risk: he hasn’t played in weeks, and Domingue – when he’s been on the top of his game – has managed some good hockey. It’s definitely a risk worth taking, though.
There’s also Rickard Rakell, who, after making a big trade to bring him over at the trade deadline, has managed to just get a couple of shifts out of him all playoff long. He was a game-time decision in Game 6, but ultimately missed the game. They brought him in for goal-scoring, and they need him badly.
Oh, and there’s that Sidney Crosby guy. Pittsburgh could really use him tonight.
2. Rangers Have Managed Well While Playing on the Edge
Despite being the higher-seeded team in this matchup, the Rangers haven’t led this series at any point. They’ve had to play catchup the entire way, and, in a way, it might be exactly what they needed to do to fully prepare for a winner-takes-all scenario. Heck, they were down 3-1 earlier this week.
But that means getting absolute massive performances from goaltender Igor Shesterkin and forwards Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider, among others.
The Rangers have looked average at best when Shesterkin hasn’t been otherworldly in this series. On paper, the goalie advantage has always been in New York’s favor. But he can’t do it himself – he needs good support, something that has alluded the Rangers at points.
New York’s Game 6 win should give them momentum heading back to Madison Square Garden. They haven’t led this series at any point – now would be a good time to change that.
3. Secondary Scoring Should be a Factor
With Pittsburgh missing some key forwards all series long, they’ve had to get creative on the scoresheet.
Pittsburgh has gotten goals from Danton Heinen, Mike Matheson, Brock McGinn and Mark Friedman, but Kasperi Kapanen and Jason Zucker have yet to pot one. Fortunately, Jake Guentzel (seven), Jeff Carter (four) and Evgeni Malkin (three) have stepped up, and they’ll have to do it again.
For the Rangers, getting goals from Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, Ryan Lindgren and even Ryan Strome has been good. Frank Vatrano and Andrew Copp – late-season additions – have six goals combined. That’s been big.
Zibanejad and Kreider had four of New York’s goals yesterday, and, obviously, will have targets on their back. Panarin didn’t score in Game 6, so look for him to bounce back.