Alex Ovechkin might still be angry about having his tying goal waved off in the Washington Capitals’ Game 6 5-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Capitals captain is likely to be supercharged for Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal Wednesday night (7:30 ET, NBCSN).
But the Hurricanes are riding a wave of emotion and won their last four Game 7s. Rookie coach Rod Brind’Amour was a player on those 2006 and 2009 teams. Justin Williams, who played in Carolina’s two Game 7 victories in 2006, is known for his prowess in deciding games (14 points, 7-1 record).
The Capitals won their lone Game 7 last year, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning. Braden Holtby had a 29-save shutout. Ovechkin leads the Capitals in Game 7 points with seven in 11 games (4-7 record) and Capitals newcomer Carl Hagelin has an 8-1 record.
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Home ice has been a significant advantage in this series. All six games have been won by the home team.
Will that hold?
The USA TODAY Sports NHL panel makes its picks for who will be moving on Wednesday:
Kevin Allen, Capitals: The Capitals boast big game playoff experience earned last season in their Stanley Cup championship run, while the Hurricanes have the momentum and Mr. Game 7 Williams. But give the edge to the Caps because they have the always-passionate Ovechkin, home ice and a goalie who has faced this level of pressure several times. Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek has been good, but he has never faced pressure like this.
Jimmy Hascup, Hurricanes. I had the Capitals winning this series entering the playoffs, but I can’t say I’ve liked how they’ve played for much of the first round. With T.J. Oshie injured, the Capitals have become reliant on their top line. The Hurricanes have generated more (and better) scoring chances, while dominating the flow of the game. They are throwing everything at the net and seemingly winning every loose puck. The big question mark: Can Mrazek turn around his road woes? He is the biggest X-factor.
Mike Brehm, Capitals. It wouldn’t surprise me anymore if all four division winners go out in the first round in these strange playoffs, but I’d have to go with the home team in a series in which the home team has won every game. The Capitals learned a lot last season by overcoming adversity in every round to win the Cup, and they did this year with a 6-0 win in Game 5 after losing Oshie the game before. They’ll tighten up their play from Game 6, get strong goaltending from Holtby and clutch scoring to advance to a meeting against former coach Barry Trotz.
Jace Evans, Capitals. The Capitals don’t have the best history in Game 7, especially at home, but the sense of dread that once hung over the crowd entering these situations should be gone after the team’s Stanley Cup last season. While the Hurricanes are the team with nothing to lose and have the added benefit of controlling play for most of this series, Washington has been significantly better at home than on the road and should be able to find a way against a young Carolina team. One division winner actually has to win a series, right?
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Game 7 picks: Do Washington Capitals or Carolina Hurricanes advance?