Home ice has been a true advantage during the Eastern Conference First Round between the Washington Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes. The home team has won each of the first six games in the best-of-7 series, with Carolina winning 5-2 in Game 6 on Monday.
Will that trend continue in Game 7 at Washington on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS, NBCSWA, FS-CR)? Here is how five NHL.com staff members see the deciding game unfolding to determine who will play the New York Islanders in the second round.
[RELATED: Complete Capitals vs. Hurricanes series coverage]
Brian Compton, deputy managing editor
The Hurricanes are a wonderful story, they really are, but there's a reason the Capitals are the defending Stanley Cup champions. I get the sense that Washington will find a way to win Game 7 back home. Forward Alex Ovechkin continues to defy logic by showing no signs of slowing down, and he will be a major factor. Expect goalie Braden Holtby to have a big game as well to set up the Capitals to face their former coach, Barry Trotz, and the Islanders in the second round. Final score: Capitals 4, Hurricanes 1
Video: WSH@CAR, Gm6: Ovechkin goes short side on Mrazek
William Douglas, staff writer
This series reminds me of the early "Rocky" movies, with the Capitals as the physically imposing opponent -- see Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago -- and the Hurricanes as the scrappy underdog who absorbs body blows in hopes of winning the fight. The Capitals have home ice and more Game 7 Stanley Cup Playoff experience than the Hurricanes. Washington has 19 players who have played in a deciding game (including forward T.J. Oshie and defenseman Michal Kempny, who are injured); Carolina has seven. It won't be enough for the Hurricanes against a team that's bound to come out hitting in front of a fired-up Capital One Arena crowd. I picked the Capitals to win this series, and I'm sticking with them in Game 7. Final score: Capitals 4, Hurricanes 2
Tom Gulitti, staff writer
The Capitals' Game 7 history is filled with disappointments; they are 4-7 in the Ovechkin era, beginning with a 3-2 overtime loss to Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. But everything changed last season when Washington won the Stanley Cup for the first time. Along the way, the Capitals defeated the Tampa Bay Lighting 4-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, and that experience should serve them well against the Hurricanes. The home team in this series should win again Wednesday. Final score: Capitals 4, Hurricanes 2
Mike G. Morreale, staff writer
The odds are stacked against Carolina, which is facing the defending champions on the road. Washington appears to be the obvious choice, but if we've learned anything, it's that the playoffs have been anything but predictable, especially this season. I like the Hurricanes to advance to the second round for the first time in 10 seasons. They've played well defensively and are rarely rattled under coach Rod Brind'Amour. We also can't ignore the fact the Hurricanes have Williams, who is 7-1 in Game 7, with an NHL-record 14 points and record-tying seven goals (Glenn Anderson). Williams also leads active players with 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists) in 23 playoff games when facing elimination. Final score: Hurricanes 4, Capitals 2
Video: Williams' goal helps Carolina force decisive Game 7
Dan Rosen, senior writer
Some may say Ovechkin lost his composure and looked out of control at the end of Game 6 on Monday when he received a slashing minor and 10-minute misconduct with 1:08 left in the third period. I think the Capitals captain looked angry. I would not want to face an angry Ovechkin. He's going to set the tone physically. He's going to put the Hurricanes on their heels. He's going to score. He's going to hit. Ovechkin will have help, but he's going to win the game for the Capitals. An angry Ovechkin is a dangerous Ovechkin. The Hurricanes have been remarkable, but their season ends here. Ovechkin scored the winning goal in Game 7 of the conference final last season. Put him down for two goals in Game 7 against Carolina, just enough for Washington. Final score: Capitals 5, Hurricanes 3
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