The top-seeded New York Rangers and the No. 7 seed Washington Capitals meet on Saturday night at MSG in another one-goal game.
OK, that's just an assumption about Game 7, but when 10 of the Rangers' 13 postseason games and 12 of the Capitals' 13 playoff games were all decided by a single goal, it seems like a pretty decent prediction.
Less predictable: Who will play the hero in Game 7? We know that either goalie Henrik Lundqvist or Braden Holtby will likely earn the chance to be called the hero by virtue of winning an elimination game, but they can't win without a goal.
Here's a look at seven skaters that might make the difference in Game 7 for the Rangers and Capitals.
Brad Richards, New York Rangers
This is the $60 million moment for Richards. When the Rangers signed him last summer, it was to bring a Conn Smythe-winning veteran savvy to a championship run — to be the guy who creates the key goal that's eluded the Blueshirts in recent postseasons. He's already done his part, posting five points in six games vs. the Caps, setting up Marian Gaborik in triple-OT and scoring the game-tying goal with seven seconds left in Game 5. But he was scoreless in Game 7 against Ottawa, and scoreless in Game 6 against Washington. They need him to come through, on the power play in particular.
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Ovechkin has dispelled a few myths in the 2012 playoffs. His nine points in 13 games, including five goals, should quiet critics of his postseason output. His ability to handle the fluctuating ice time from Dale Hunter without carping has been admirable (so far, at least). He has goals in two of his last three games, and was outstanding in Game 6. Can he play the hero in Game 7, earning a chance to join his friend Ilya Kovalchuk in the conference finals (and don't think for a moment that opportunity is lost on Ovi)?
Brian Boyle, New York Rangers
No Rangers player was more disgusted with his team's performance in Game 6 than Boyle, the 6-7 forward who started the playoffs with three goals in three games and has one assist since. That's all forgotten if he finds a way to crack Holtby in Game 7, but has to do better than the two shots in three games he's posted vs. Washington.
Jason Chimera, Washington Capitals
The winger's speed has been a problem for the Rangers all series and especially in the last two games, as he's peppered Lundqvist with nine shots and scored in Game 6. He makes the most of the ice time he receives from Hunter, and could score the kind of dirty goal you often see in a Game 7.
Ruslan Fedotenko, New York Rangers
His ice time dropped to 12:18 in Game 6, and he'll be on the fourth line again in Game 7, but his penchant for postseason heroics can't be ignored. In 2004, under Tortorella, he scored in Game 7 against the Flyers to win the conference title and then scored twice in the Cup-clinching game against the Flames. In 2009 for the Penguins, he had seven goals en route to their Cup win. He hasn't scored a goal in his last 24 playoff games — due or done?
Brooks Laich, Washington Capitals
From his guarantee that the Capitals would make the playoffs to his unwavering support of Dale Hunter's unorthodox decisions, one of Washington's most respected veterans would seem poised to make a big play in Game 7. He has goals in two of his last three Game 7s — alas, both losses, to Montreal and Pittsburgh.
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
This is Kreider's moment to become an instant New York sports legend. His ice time plummeted in Games 5 and 6 after a gaffe last weekend led to an Alex Ovechkin goal. But with the team needing goals against Holtby, the Rangers had him skating with Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan in practice on Friday. Can the kid make a difference?
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