A Game 7 in the NHL Playoffs is one of the most exciting spectacles in sports, and we have another one on Saturday night with the Washington Capitals at the New York Rangers.
The puck will drop at historic Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m. (ET). New York opened as 150 favorites, but has quickly moved down to the 140-145 range. The total has remained steady at 4½ and shaded to the ‘over’ at -135.
Washington isn’t playing anything like a seventh seed and has already won a Game 7 in these playoffs at defending champ Boston. That was a thrilling 2-1 overtime affair on April 25 with the game-winner by the surprising Joel Ward.
The Capitals are playing a tight-checking, defensive game under coach Dale Hunter. The last five games in this series have been decided by one goal and an incredible 12-of-13 overall for Washington in the postseason. That includes six going into overtime.
The close-game strategy did backfire for the Caps in Game 5 in New York. The Rangers scored with eight seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 2-2, and then scored just 1:35 into overtime. Both were power play goals after a bad penalty on the former hero Ward.
The Capitals did rebound in Game 6 at home (2-1) to force this deciding game. They are a perfect 6-0 off a loss in the playoffs, but have won consecutive games just once. That’s something to consider for Saturday.
New York is the top seed in the conference and 4-0 all-time at MSG in a Game 7. One of those wins was 2-1 in the first round against plucky eighth seed Ottawa. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist stopped 26-of-27 shots in that game and his .936 playoff save percentage is almost dead even with 22-year-old Caps goalie Braden Holtby (.935).
The winner will meet the sixth-seed New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference finals. The Rangers last made it that far in 1997, last winning the whole thing in 1994.
Washington most recently made the conference finals in 1998 when it was eventually swept in the Stanley Cup Finals by Detroit. The franchise has never won the whole thing.
(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
Game 1 Odds: Kings -115, 4½ total (‘over’ -120)
Season Series: 3-3, 3-2-1 ‘under/over/push’
The Western Conference finals begin Sunday at 8:00 p.m. (ET) from the desert. The Coyotes have home ice advantage over their Pacific Division rivals after finishing with two more points (97 vs. 95) in the regular season.
Both teams have turned up their play in the playoffs with the Coyotes beating Chicago in six games and Nashville in five. They were underdogs in each series despite having home ice. The formerly unheralded Mike Smith has been great between the pipes with a 1.77 GAA and .948 save percentage. The postseason offense is at 2.64 goals per game.
The Kings have been even more impressive in the playoffs as an eighth seed, beating top-seed Vancouver in five games and second-seed St. Louis in a sweep. That’s why they’re the solid 170 series favorite along with their own tremendous goalie in Jonathan Quick (1.55 GAA, 9.49 save percentage). The offense has also been better than Phoenix as 3.00 per game.
Note both teams are on an ‘under’ streak, 5-2 in Los Angeles’ last seven and 7-2 in Phoenix’ last nine.