For additional insight into the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Craig Berube to break down the action. Berube will be checking in throughout the series.
Berube, 50, was the coach of the Philadelphia Flyers from 2013-15. He was a Flyers assistant coach for six seasons prior to being promoted to coach on Oct. 7, 2013. The Flyers were 75-58-28 under Berube. They made the Stanley Cup Playoffs and lost to the Rangers in the first round in 2014.
PITTSBURGH -- It's almost time for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, and former Philadelphia Flyers coach Craig Berube has no real feel for how it will unfold at Consol Energy Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
"It's tough to call this one the way this series has gone," Berube said by phone Wednesday.
Berube, though, was quick to offer a prediction on how he thinks the Tampa Bay Lightning will respond after losing 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 at Amalie Arena on Tuesday.
"They'll be going, they'll be ready and they'll be hungry," Berube said. "They'll be aggressive in this game."
They weren't for 40 minutes in Game 6 and it cost them.
Video: PIT@TBL, Gm6: Kessel opens scoring with midair PPG
Berube credited the Penguins' best players for making the difference as Phil Kessel scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal and Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby scored at 5-on-5 to give Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead going into the third period. But he also blamed the Lightning for letting it happen.
"It wasn't a lack of care, but they just didn't have the urgency, they didn't play with it," Berube said. "I didn't notice [Nikita] Kucherov or [Tyler] Johnson that much, any of those guys. They just made some mistakes. Giving the Penguins a 5-on-3 power play by shooting the puck into the mesh from the other end, you just can't make that mistake. You can't put those guys on a 5-on-3. They're going to score."
Berube disputed the notion that Jonathan Drouin's disallowed goal at 5:12 of the first period sapped the Lightning's energy and took them out of the game. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan challenged the goal call, saying Drouin was offside. The officials agreed upon video review.
The goal would have given the Lightning a 1-0 lead, but also would have been their first shot of the game. They didn't get another one until 7:49.
"You would hope that goal wouldn't affect them that badly," Berube said. "There are 55 minutes left to go in the game at that point. I don't think it was the goal; I just think they didn't have a good game."
Video: PIT@TBL, Gm6: Crosby splits D, beats Vasilevskiy
And so the series has reached Game 7. Berube, speaking from a coach's perspective, said for Sullivan and Jon Cooper of the Lightning, it's more about coaching the mind than X's and O's at this point. Berube said players can't be made to feel tight or anxious.
"You can't put too much pressure on yourself, just relax the best you can and go play, and play loose," Berube said. "You have to go after it. To me, that's the biggest thing, just be aggressive. The other thing is it's about putting it all on the line. The little things are really going to matter. Blocking the shots. Being competitive all over the ice. You have to put it all on the line and leave it all out there, give it your best shot, but don't be tight because if you are it's hard to perform. We all know that. You don't want to make your team tight."
Experience helps too, Berube said. The Lightning have the edge there. They went through this same scenario in the Eastern Conference Final last season, losing Game 6 at home and having to play Game 7 on the road. They dominated the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, won 2-0 and reached the Stanley Cup Final.
Sixteen of the 18 skaters expected to dress for the Lightning in Game 7 on Thursday were on the ice in that Game 7 against the Rangers last year. The only two who weren't are forward Jonathan Drouin and defenseman Slater Koekkoek. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was the backup to Ben Bishop for that game.
"They know they can do it," Berube said. "That's one thing. They've done it. I'm sure that's in the back of their minds, that they did it last year. They're a good team, no doubt about it. They're a resilient hockey team."