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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Hurricanes, Rangers each bring confidence, promising history into Game 7

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Recent history would say one thing: The Carolina Hurricanes are going to win Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round.

But it’s not that easy. And it’s not that simple. 

The Hurricanes do come into Game 7 against the New York Rangers with home-ice advantage, playing at PNC Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVAS), and it’s an advantage that has been insurmountable for opponents in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Still, this will be a Game 7, with the Eastern Conference Final on the line. And Game 7s can mean anything.

“We feel like we have a recipe for success, but they probably do too,” Rangers forward Andrew Copp said Sunday. “It’s one of those where both teams feel confident. It’s just going to be a matter of who can play the closest to a perfect game tomorrow.”

[RELATED: Complete Hurricanes vs. Rangers series coverage]

The Hurricanes come into Game 7 with a 7-0 record at home in these playoffs. They are 3-0 in Game 7s at home in their history, and the Rangers are 2-5 in them on the road. Carolina has won six consecutive Game 7s, starting back when coach Rod Brind’Amour was still playing and scored the series-clinching goal against the Buffalo Sabres in the 2006 conference final. The Hurricanes went on to win the Stanley Cup.

If they win Monday, they would become the first to win seven consecutive Game 7s.

“I think there’s confidence just in general,” Brind’Amour said. “We know if we play our game we’re going to have a good chance. We’re always focusing on the next and we’ve got another day, so it’s a good opportunity.”

Of course, the Rangers are 7-1 in their past eight Game 7s.

So, again, not so easy. Not so simple.

“A lot of professional people look at it and say Carolina might have the edge there,” New York coach Gerard Gallant said. “A lot of people said that. But me as a coach and our players, we don’t believe that. We just believe if we play our best game, we’ll win.”

The Rangers are also 4-0 when facing elimination in these playoffs, winning yet again with their season on the line Saturday at Madison Square Garden, 5-2. They have one of the best goalies in the NHL in Igor Shesterkin, who has a .925 save percentage in those four elimination games and is a finalist for both the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player in the regular season and the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie. 

If Shesterkin is on, that too is hard to overcome. 

“He’s been unreal,” Gallant said. “Obviously he’s up for the most valuable player award and the Vezina award. He’s been that great for us all year long. We rely on him. He makes big saves for us at key times and gives us a chance to win every game we play, no matter who we’re playing.”

The Hurricanes do have a blueprint for how to attack the Rangers in Game 7 because it’s exactly the way they played in Game 5, a dominating, suffocating brand of hockey that held New York to 17 shots. 

“If you could play like that every night, you would,” Brind’Amour said. “Both teams are trying to get to that type of game, their game. Obviously if we can do that, it increases our chances to win.”

They might be able to. They might not. Anything goes when it comes to a Game 7, a chance for a date with the well-rested Tampa Bay Lightning in the conference final. 

The losing team? Well, it heads home to wait for next season. 

“The season’s on the line, right?” Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “It’s a lot of fun. It takes a lot of character from the team to go out there and play the right way and come out with a win like we did last time. So we’ve just got to try to do the same thing we did a series ago.”

Both teams are brimming with confidence, with belief in themselves and what they can do, no matter what the past has looked like, no matter what the results have been (over and over) at PNC Arena. 

Both teams believe they’ll be playing on Wednesday when the conference final commences. Only one team will be right. 

“We know how good of a team we have,” Rangers forward Frank Vatrano said. “We know how important tomorrow’s game is. Like ‘Copper’ said, whoever is going to play the perfect game and make less mistakes is going to win. Being the underdog or being the favorite, for us, whatever’s said outside the room doesn’t matter. 

“For us, it’s knowing how good we are and knowing the confidence we have in one another and knowing that we’re going to do the job. You can’t look at the past games we’ve played in this rink. You’ve just got to look at the one tomorrow.”

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