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Sharks, Avalanche aren't feeling Game 7 pressure

Focusing on execution, maintaining intensity to reach Western Conference Final

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

DENVER -- The second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is down to one game between the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche.

The pressure is on, right? Well, that depends who you ask. 

Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar, he with nine games of NHL experience, said the heat will clearly be on the Sharks when they host Game 7 at SAP Center on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).


[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Avalanche series coverage]


"Now it's a toss-up and the pressure is on them going back to San Jose," the 20-year-old said after the Avalanche's 4-3 overtime win in Game 6 on Monday.

His teammate Erik Johnson, before boarding a plane to San Jose on Tuesday, backed him up. 

"All the pressure's on them," Johnson said. "They're at home. They were favored in the series. For us, we're just going to go in and embrace the underdog role and have some fun with it."

San Jose did have the better regular season, finishing second in the Pacific Division with 101 points. The Avalanche were the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference with 90 points.

Video: Breaking down MacKinnon's playmaking vs. the Sharks

But the Sharks say each team is under the same stress with a trip to the Western Conference Final at stake. 

"I don't know; who cares where the pressure is?" Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Tuesday. "You win, you advance. That's the bottom line."

Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, who has eight points (four goals, four assists) in the series, said he embraces all that comes with playing in a win-or-go-home game. 

"I mean, when you're a kid, you never play Game 5," Burns said. "You always play Game 7, and in overtime. That's fun. It's a great thing for everybody."

This is San Jose's second Game 7 of this postseason; they defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime on April 23. The Avalanche are in a Game 7 for the first time since 2014, when they lost to the Minnesota Wild in the first round.

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm7: Sharks rally with four goals, win in OT

In terms of experience, players on the Sharks have combined for 55 Game 7s played, with Joe Thornton leading the way with seven. 

Captain Joe Pavelski, who hasn't played since he sustained an undisclosed injury in Game 7 against Vegas, has played in six of them. The forward is a game-day decision for Wednesday.

Players on the Avalanche combine for 20 Game 7s played, led by Derick Brassard's six. Defenseman Ian Cole has played in three, all with the Pittsburgh Penguins, so he knows what to expect. 

"I think that the difficulties and pressures of a Game 7 are very similar to what's kind of happened throughout the course of the playoffs," Cole said Tuesday. "As a series goes, the desperation and the execution level that's needed has to rise, and in a Game 7, an elimination game for both teams, that desperation is going to be at an all-time high. We just need to match it."

Neither the Avalanche nor the Sharks have been able to win two straight games in the series.

Video: Compher's two goals help send Avalanche to Game 7

DeBoer said it tells you exactly how close the series has been.

"The desperation level night to night has been the difference," he said. "The team that wins has taken a little bit of a breath and the team that has lost the previous game digs in with a heightened desperation level for the next game, and that small margin has probably been the difference in just about every game. 

"The beauty of Game 7 is that I don't think either of us are going to be taking a breath because we all know what's at stake."

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Tuesday he was certain the intensity will go up again and he believed his team would have to be more committed than ever.

"We've got to go in and be willing to try to win that game 1-0 and defend a little bit better than we did at times last night," he said. "I'll tell you this. It's not going to be that much different for us than it was last night. It's another elimination game for us. It's a tough building to go into.

"I felt their team had more desperation than us in Game 5 (the Sharks won 2-1). Maybe we had a bit of an edge there last night. So now you're going to see both teams playing desperate hockey, so it should be a real fun one."

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