NEW YORK, NY – Here we are again. The Rangers, after looking like they were done for early in the series, have found themselves in another Game 7. But this one is different. The Round 1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins came with the Rangers having home ice advantage. They got to play Game 7 at the Garden and still needed overtime to beat Sid and Co.
This time, Game 7 is on the road in Raleigh. And the home team has won every game so far this series. It’s a tough ask for the Blueshirts who were second best to the Canes for the entire regular season. And they have been outplayed by Carolina for long stretches this series. But, like the Pittsburgh series, the Rangers have found a way to win and force a Game 7.
The Rangers success has largely been due to Igor Shesterkin who has bounced back from a couple of clunkers in the Pittsburgh series to play like a Vezina trophy winner. He’s been sharp this series and has kept the Rangers in games. If the Rangers do win this series it will largely be down to Igor’s play in net.
Another large part of the Rangers’ success this series has been the awakening of Mika Zibanejad. Ziba was missing in action for the early part of the Penguins series but he has been red-hot since. He’s got 7 goals and 16 points this postseason. The kid line has been stellar as well. They have been the Rangers best unit by far. They’ll need to be a big factor in Game 7 if the Rangers are to advance.
The Broadway Blues have been getting healthy at the right time as well. Tyler Motte made his return earlier in the series and has been great on the penalty kill. Barclay Goodrow made his return last night from his leg injury and his presence and experience should help the Rangers who have been shaky through the middle. Goodrow should help the face off percentage, which has been abysmal for the entirety of the playoffs for the Rangers.
It should be a great Game 7. Former Ranger Antti Raanta will look to bounce back after a disappointing Game 6 performance in net. The career backup might be showing signs of fatigue after playing every other day for the first two rounds. He only made 26 starts throughout the regular season. Tomorrow will mark his 14th start in a month during the playoffs. He gave up a couple of really soft goals to the Rangers last night and was pulled after giving up a third goal in the second period.
We will see tomorrow whether Raanta really is worn out or whether last night’s performance was just one bad night. The Rangers will need to play a clean game and stay out of the penalty box. They will also need to take care of the puck when they’re on the power play. They’ve given up two short-handed goals this series. I think the Rangers will break the home win streak and eek out a victory tomorrow night. Either way it has been a great series and a solid performance from the Rangers.