Nothing tops a Game 7 in an NHL playoff series, and when you pit two teams with a postseason history in one of those games, you know you're in for a fun night. And so it will be tonight, as the Hurricanes prepare to face the Devils in Newark for the finale of this back-and-forth series.
The Canes arguably have momentum, having dominated New Jersey in their 4-0 Game 6 win at the RBC Center Sunday. But the Devils will get to use the home-ice advantage they earned with their regular season performance tonight, and any team would rather be at their building for a Game 7 than on the road.
So who wins? We're going to look at reasons why both could win tonight's game.
Why New Jersey Will Win
- This has been a see-saw matchup, with no team winning back-to-back games. The Devils, having lost Game 6, will have the home-ice edge for Game 7.
- With that home-ice advantage comes the final line change, which should free up Zach Parise and his linemates from the clutches of Tim Gleason and Joe Corvo, who have neutralized the Devils' top line.
- If you needed one goalie to take in a Game 7, most are going to look to Brodeur, the NHL's all time wins leader.
- Experience, experience, experience. New Jersey's graybeards have been mostly quiet this series, but having players like Brendan Shanahan, Brian Rolston and John Madden — who has looked like he's been transported back to his prime thus far — is always a threat in a clutch game.
- Patrick Elias has been around forever but is still just 33. One big bullet point he has on his resume? Two Game 7 game-winning goals.
- Brian Gionta has given New Jersey some much-needed secondary scoring, and the elusive winger has proven he can score at any time.
- Jamie Langenbrunner returned for Game 6 and but Bryce Salvador may be back is out for the series' rubber match. Langenbrunner should have his legs back under him, and he injects skill and veteran know-how into the N.J. lineup.
- The Hurricanes have never won a Game 7 on the road, but is 2-3 all time. New Jersey is 5-4 all time, but hasn't played in one since winning the Stanley Cup against Anaheim in 2003. Carolina has won their last two, both in 2006: against Buffalo in the Eastern Conference finals and vs. Edmonton in the deciding game of the Stanley Cup finals.
- The two teams may have split Games 5 and 6, but Carolina has been stellar in both games. Cam Ward has stopped 70 of 71 shots in the past two matchups and, outside of Brodeur's Game 5 effort, has been the better goalie this series.
- Paul Maurice shuffled his lines and has to like the results, with Eric Staal and Ray Whitney looking like they played together all season long.
- With Sergei Samsonov's return from injury, Carolina has been able to play all four forward lines. It could play a factor in what has been a long series, especially if Game 7 goes into extra time.
- Parise has gone silent. His determination and skill got the best of Carolina early in the series, but the Canes have found a way to slow him and down, and his decreased output has crippled the Devils' offense. Staal, on the other hand, is wearing down the Devils with his mix of size and skill.
- Whitney is one of 30 NHL players all time to notch a Game 7 OT winner.
- The Devils have their share of experienced players, but let's not forget Carolina's veterans. Rod Brind'Amour, Scott Walker and Whitney are closer to 40 than 30, while Nic Wallin and Erik Cole have both played in two Stanley Cup finals.
- The Devils may have home ice, but don't expect them to get anywhere near the kind of backing the Hurricanes get at the RBC Center. An early Carolina lead would likely silence the Prudential Center crowd.
- This might be Brodeur's ninth career Game 7, but Ward is 2-0 heading into his third.