Might a quick turnaround be a factor as the Philadelphia Flyers try to complete a comeback over the New York Rangers?
Game 6 hero Wayne Simmonds, who notched his first career playoff hat trick in a 5-2 win on Tuesday, certainly hopes so.
“It’s great that we’re having a back-to-back, actually,” said Simmonds, who leads all players with four goals in the series. “The other games we had a couple days off and I think that's kind of why you say the series go 1-1, (2-2, 3-3). Teams had time to regroup and now we’ve got the momentum, we’ve got to put our foot on the pedal and we’ve just got to keep pushing forward.”
The winner of the series moves on to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division final, which is expected to open Friday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
The Rangers aren’t concerned about the need to turn the page quickly.
“I don’t think it is challenging at all,” Rangers defenceman Marc Staal said. “We wake up and it’s a Game 7. Loser goes home and winner takes it all. There’s nothing better than playing in those Game 7s when you’re a part of them.”
After enjoying a pair of two-day breaks between games earlier in the series, the two teams will be playing for the third time in four days. But, given the stakes, finding the necessary energy shouldn’t be an issue in this one.
“Game 7s are what brings the best out in people,” Rangers centre Brad Richards said. “It’ll be a hard-fought battle. We’re going home. We’ve had success in Game 7s, especially a lot of these guys in this room. That’s why we battled hard right to the end to get home ice.”
Although New York has lost 12 consecutive times while holding a series lead, they’ve won their past three deciding games, including a convincing 4-0 victory over the Washington Capitals in the opening round of 2013.
The Flyers are 9-6 lifetime in Game 7, but have won their past three as well.
Special teams continue to play a huge role in this series.
With two goals on Tuesday (both from Simmonds), the Flyers power play is operating at 31.6%.
Meanwhile, after going 3-for-8 to start the series, the Rangers have endured a 0-for-20 drought and are 3-for-28 overall (10.7%).
“Need to execute,” New York coach Alain Vigneault said. “I’ve been saying that for a couple of games now, and we’ve got one more game that if we get a power play to prove that we can execute."
Simmonds had been held in check for much of the series, picking up only an empty-net goal and an assist before exploding for three goals while also playing his most physical game.
“He was jumping everywhere, he was strong on the puck and I think when Wayne wants to win the battle, he wins it and kind of gives everybody in the room a little bit of motivation to do the same,” said Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who has found the offensive touch that was missing earlier in this series.
One of the surprising developments of Game 6 saw Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist getting pulled after giving up four goals on 23 shots.
“You don’t want to analyze this too much,” Lundqvist said. “They did pretty much everything better than us, even goaltending. We all have to step up (Wednesday) and play our best to try to beat this team.”
Lundqvist is getting set to appear in his fifth Game 7 and he’s gone 3-1 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .963 save percentage previously, so he can expect him to be sharp.
Flyers goalie Steve Mason picked up his second win in three starts since returning from an undisclosed upper-body injury, and seems to be gaining confidence as he gets set to play his first Game 7 as a pro.
Flyers fans gave Mason quite a salute on Tuesday, chanting his name during one of the broadcast timeouts, prompting the netminder to raise his stick as a token of his gratitude.
“Those are the moments that send chills down your spine,” Mason said. “You get 20,000 people chanting your name, those moments don’t happen too often so it’s kind of nice to just take it in and they’re showing their appreciation and you throw your stick up in the air and acknowledge it. Those are the type of moments, I think, when you’re done playing, you can look back on it and say they’re pretty special.”
On Wednesday morning, the NHL announced Rangers centre Dominic Moore, New Jersey Devils winger Jaromir Jagr and Carolina Hurricanes centre Manny Malhotra are finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
The award is handed out annually “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”
It is chosen by members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and will be presented June 24 in Las Vegas as part of the 2014 NHL Awards.