WASHINGTON - Pressure. When applied properly, it's what separates coal from diamonds and winners from losers.
Hours ahead of the biggest game of their season: Part 3, the Canadiens know exactly what's at stake when they hit the Verizon Center ice for Game 7 on Wednesday night. Lose and go home. Win and get ready for Pittsburgh. And that do-or-die scenario seems to suit the Habs just fine.
"It's a cliché, but on the pond, you don't think about anything but Game 7," offered Hal Gill, who will be suiting up for his fourth postseason rubber match on Wednesday night. "This is what you play for and this is where you want to be. It's a fun thing because it's all or nothing and you don't get too many chances to do that throughout the year - you're playing games and you always get another chance. This is it."
Far from being butterfly-free ahead of the opening faceoff in Washington, the veteran blue-liner will instead be embracing and savoring his team's first and only chance at clinching Round 1.
"You want to enjoy it - you can't let this moment pass you by," explained Gill, who came out on the winning end of both Game 7s he played in last year en route to hoisting the Cup with Pittsburgh. "It's all relative. It's a different series, a different team - it's all different. But at the same time it's the same anxious feeling. You want to play the game right away in the morning because you're so excited when you wake up, but it's a balancing act between being too high and too low.
"I used the example that it's like going to see a horror movie - you want to be scared," described the 6-foot-7 defenseman. "Playing a Game 7, you want to have those feelings of being anxious, excited, nervous, and enjoyment and that's the fun part."
While Canadiens coach Jacques Martin wasn't giving up any state secrets with regards to lineup changes or his plans for closing out the opening series against the President's Trophy winners, he did lay out what his expectations were come game time on Wednesday night.
"Our guys are confident. They feel like they've earned the right to play a seventh game," said Martin. "We've faced adversity all season long and we've shown our colors. The game will be really exciting: the center of attention. There are still nine teams alive and we've got a great opportunity ahead of us."
The second-most recent Stanley Cup champ in the team's locker room has seen his share of big games over the years. After scoring the Cup-clincher for Anaheim in 2007, Travis Moen
wants nothing more than to help lead the way back to the Promised Land again this year.
"It's still the first round but we're playing for the Stanley Cup," declared Moen. "All 20 guys in here want to move on to the next round and it's going to take a full 60 minutes. We're ready for that. I think the pressure's on both teams. Obviously they want to move on and we do too."
After watching Detroit become the sixth team in the 2010 playoffs to clinch a series on the road, Moen has every intention of making sure the Canadiens nab the seventh spot on that list.
"We've had success here so that gives you some confidence coming into this barn, but their fans are crazy here, too. They're going to come out gunning," warned Moen. "The only way we're going to win is if all 20 guys are at their best, but we've got to just enjoy it too. This is fun. It's a Game 7 and not too many guys get the opportunity to play in them."Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.See alsoGame #7 previewMission possible? Five Keys to the Game: Habs-Caps #7 Winner take all