It’s the biggest game of the season to this point, yet the New York Islanders do not seem daunted by the moment.
They sounded loose and relaxed during their morning availability, excited for the opportunity ahead of them: a chance to advance to the second round.
There are nerves, but the good kind; the ones that keep the body and mind sharp, the ones that differentiate excitement from anxiety.
“It’s Game Seven in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If you can’t find that adrenaline rush, then there’s something wrong with you,” Matt Martin said. “These are the types of games, types of series you want to be a part of. You have a chance to make a little bit of history.”
Johnny Boychuk, who holds a 4-3 career record in game sevens said the feeling is good ahead of the critical game. That Game Seven buzz doesn't get old for Boychuk, who said he wishes they could just forgo the afternoon waiting and just start playing.
But alas, they must wait until the 7:30 p.m. puck drop, so in the meantime, Boychuk offered some insight on the type of play he expects tonight – a slightly more conservative game, as both teams try to limit risk.
“You don't want to try a risky play,” Boychuk said. “You could turn the puck over and then it ends up in the back of your net. But you still don't want to shy away from making plays. You have to pay more attention to details. It’s a critical game for both teams. You want to stay disciplined, but you still want to play hard.”
Boychuk and a handful of others aside, the Islanders have limited Game Seven experience. But after a character win in Game 6, the Islanders do know what it takes to win an elimination game. That’s the experience they’re drawing on ahead of tonight’s battle.
“We want an effort like we had in Game Six and try to elevate that,” John Tavares said. “That’s what we’re going to need to win today. We’re playing for a special group, a great organization, great fanbase and we’ll go out there and leave it all on the line.”
The Islanders also feel good about their goaltender heading into Game 7, as Jaroslav Halak is 2-0 in these games and is 6-1 in elimination games overall. He’s also 4-0 in his career in elimination games against the Capitals.
“[Jaro’s] probably going to have to be our best player,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said Sunday. “He’s been there before, he knows what it takes and I’m very confident.”
As far as the mindset and preparation, Capuano wants it to be like any other day. Don’t succumb to the pressure, manage the puck and take it shift by shift.
“They know the structure and how we need to play,” Capuano said Monday. “We want all the guys to go out there, enjoy it and have fun. Do what you do. These guys have been doing this for a long time. Just because it’s game 7, you don't want to change that.”
It’s gotten them this far.