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Penguins Report: Game Day vs. Tampa Bay (Game 7)

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Pens lines from the morning skate (10:33 AM).
  • Mearsy gives you the scoop on tonight’s Game 7 (1:57 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Fleury, Game 7 experience and details (1:23 PM).
  • Coach Boucher on Hedman, Thompson and PK (12:57 PM).
  • Orpik, Kunitz and Staal spit knowledge (12:10 PM).
  • Neal, Martin and Fleury wax intellectual (12:31 PM).
  • Pens pics (12:15 PM).
  • N.Johnson gets the shaft (12:39 PM).
  • Bolts pics (1:05 PM).
  • WBS signs Samuelsson the Lesser (4:29 PM).
  • ROOT and the Pens ink long-term deal (4:32 PM).
  • “How could I ever forget? It's the first time and last time we ever met…” (10:00 AM).

4:32 PM:
The Pens and ROOT SPORTS signed a 150-year deal (OK it's not that long)! But it is a lengthy deal that will have the network broadcasting Pens games through the 2028-29 season.

Which means plenty more of days like these to come...

4:29 PM:
Pens draft pick Philip Samuelsson signed a tryout contract with WBS.

1:57 PM:
Steve Mears brings you today's Game 7 edition of Penguins Insider, giving you all the info you need to know (If you look over his right shoulder you'll see a hard working and dedicated Penguins website staff typing away).

1:23 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma...

On which player has carried the team with Crosby and Malkin out:
I think there have been different parts of our team that have been part of our identity and how we play. Marc-Andre Fleury and our defense and the way they play defense. I think in terms of a leader for our team overall, Jordan Staal has been that guy. It is sometimes quiet and sometimes its not. He is a guy who really leads the way we play in lots of different situations: power play, penalty kill, going big minutes against another teams lines. He has been a big part of guys we have really leaned on and been indicators for our team.

On Crosby not skating in the morning skate:
The same thing with Matt Cooke at this point in time. We are focused on playing the game and morning skate is for that purpose.

 On if the players mood has changed as the media have speculated the return of Crosby and Malkin:
I think there is a large amount of speculation. Some of it is from a long way away and some closer to home about how close Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and these scenarios. There is no timetable. There is no anticipation that it might be soon or when it might be for either player. There has been no change in our guys’ thought process in our room. Sid is still a ways away from even anticipating when he might return. Our players know that hasn’t changed for him. Some of the speculation has, but that’s stuff that we know is not true. So no, the focus hasn’t really changed and our team has been going forward with the group that we have here and knowing that it is going to be that way.

On Marc-Andre Fleury:
In terms of our team and the aspects of our team, he is a big part of our success. He is a big part of our team. He is a big part of the confidence that we have and have developed in the way we play the games and how we win games. In the past he has shown his colors in these games. He has won some big games for us. He has made the big saves. He has been in his fair share of these big games too as well. He has not won every one. But he has stepped up his game and he has shown he is a big time goaltender. This year he has shown he is a big part of our team. He is a team MVP for a reason. He is a big part of the confidence and the way we play the game. In Game 7, We need our team to be our identity and how we play. He is a big part of that.

On Neal and Letestu playing in their first Game 7 experience:
I think from the outside looking in it would be somewhat of a mistake to think you get to a Game 7 and you feel its going to come down to one play. If you go into the game that way, sometimes you see the game where it starts and they feel each other out or no one looks to extend themselves or no one looks to make a mistake. You can feel that maybe by watching the game. There is a lot that goes into the game. There is going to be, everyone is going to have at least a handful of plays on their stick that might be the play that we talk about afterwards. There will be a hero. There will be a storyline for the winning team. But this game we be comprised of the same things of the other games we have played this year. You try to build in your team, this is how we are going to play, this is what you can expect, this is the plays that are going to matter. We have talked about that at training camp. We know that it is going to come down to this play. We have been working that way all year long as a team. We know that as players and when we play that certain way we give ourselves an opportunity to have no doubt about the way the game is played. That is a real challenge for James Neal and Mark Letestu. Go out there with the confidence that our team is going to play a certain way. The game will be on your tape. Just like it is been there for the whole year long. We are ready to make those plays. We play the right way, we have that mentality and we stay with our identity someone is going to be a hero in our squad.

On how you handle with guys perhaps thinking too much about every detail in a Game 7:
I think you see that situation, and again we are talking about now playing the game. At the end there is a good chance tomorrow someone is going to write that it came down to one play. That is not a very comforting thought going into the game. That is not something you want to play with. I think you try and build that out of a team and out of a player with the way you play and the expectations. At the end of the year the winner is going to have off shots, create a net-front, pay the price to make a play. You are going to write the story. That is what winners do. We have tried to build that into the team so that when you come down to that one play you will have made it and be ready for and you know the significance of it. When you play that way as a team you give yourselves the chance to tilt the scales in your favor. I think this series has been a great series because both teams have been able to do that at certain times. Both teams have played very good games and I think now we are going into a Game 7 that will be everything a Game 7 should be. It going to be an opportunity. It is going to be about us getting to our game and them with their strengths and it is going to come down to one play. But that is one play we have already made a thousand times and we are going to be ready for it.

Sussed: Joe Prince-Wright

1:05 PM:
Bolts pics...

Roloson (left); Two Bolts console each other (right)

Bolt on right is playing with "The Big Tomahawk," just like Clarence "Screaming Buffalo" Swamptown (left); Coach action shot: pointing (right)

12:57 PM:
Coachspeak with Guy Boucher…

On who’s been the guy to carry the flag in situations like this during the season and who he would expect to come through tonight:
I’ve found over this past year that it’s been a different guy almost every game. I think the last thing I would want to do is pinpoint anybody that would have all the pressure to make the big play. I think it’s a team game and that’s what the beauty of a team sport is, that you don’t know who’s going to come up big. I certainly don’t think that has to be Vinny (Lecavalier) or Marty (St. Louis). It has to be everybody. It’s a flag that has to be carried by everybody, including goaltenders. We’re expecting the other team to come up with their biggest game. I’d be shocked if that’s not Fleury’s best game. I think he’s going to come out with an incredible game where he’s going to be almost unbeatable. That’s what we’re expecting.

On how Victor Hedman has improved during this series and what it will mean for him in the future:
I’m happy you mentioned that name, because Victor is a gentleman that has really progressed this year. What I liked is that in big games this year, he was really good. He’s one of those kids that wants more. Under pressure, he seems to be even better. It’s the opposite in those games that don’t necessarily mean that much. Those are the games that scare me with him. I think him and a lot of other young guys are guys that didn't have any playoff experience, whether it’s a (Sean) Bergenheim or (Teddy) Purcell or (Hedman) or other guys on our team. We’ve urged every single player to get better, but those young guys – if we’re here today, it’s because those young guys learned quick on how to execute under pressure. Certainly, whatever happens tonight, (Hedman) is going to look back and see that he got better when his best game was demanded and needed. He gave us that. With Heddy, it’s always about offense versus defense. When he doesn't look very good, it’s because he’s going to go on offense and he’s thinking that he’s going to push the pace and figure out ways to become an offensive defenseman, and I think that’s the biggest problem that all young defensemen have. If you’re an offensive defenseman, you want to do it now. Usually defensemen come into their own past 24 years old and on, unless you’re a major superstar offensively, and even then (it’s hard). I think for him this year, he knows that the best moments he’s had were the times he focused on his defense and played great at it, and because of that he got some offense out of it and not the opposite.

On why there have been so many Game 7s in this round and if he can use anything from those games to reflect on with his team:
Yeah, they’re keeping us up late. I was watching both games (Tuesday), and I think that what we’re seeing is what everybody’s been talking about. We’ve got parity in the league right now. Anybody can beat you. So if you finish first or eighth, it doesn’t really make a difference. We can see now that any team can win in the other team’s rink. It comes down to overtime. It’s the same during the year. From my experience, I’ve found that every game is all-important. You can’t lose against this team because they’re out of the playoffs, but they’re almost just as good as you and it depends on one little play. Then you meet the top teams, and well, there’s a test. You can’t lose that one either. So every team that you meet will beat you the minute you’re off. So if you’re tired because you played the night before, you’ve got one more power play or one less than them, it makes a difference. You’ve got one injury, they don’t. It’s such a fine line. That’s what we see in the playoffs right now. That’s why just get to the playoffs. That’s what I hear all the time, whether you finish first or eighth, you’ve got just as much of a chance if you just (hold on). Last year was a perfect example in our conference where the seventh and eighth (teams) were fighting to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. I just think that with the parity now and teams battling since January as if it was playoffs, you come to the playoffs and everybody’s kind of ready for the playoffs because they’ve been at it since January.

On regardless of tonight’s outcome, what’s impressed him about his team to get to this point after falling behind:
For the people who’ve followed us, I think one of our trademarks is that we always come back. In third periods, we’re really, really good at coming back. Now we’ve got to come back from games, not just a period or one or two goals. Even the games that we’ve lost, except for the first game, we were down by two and we came back in the third twice. Now we were down by games, and it just shows the character of the players. I think our top-end guys have character. I was hearing some people talk on TV about our top guys, and they’re right. Vinny comes to war, and St. Louis comes to war, and (Simon) Gagne shows up in big games and (Steven) Stamkos has shown he’s going to war and he was there. Our top-end guys – they’re not waiting for the play to come to them. They’re going to get it. That’s what I like. But what’s great is that everybody else is (too). The Moores of this world – I remember last year looking at him with the Canadiens, I thought he was one of the top players. He’s been great for us just being in this series. So I think all-around, we’re not an extremely talented team. We don’t have offensive depth on all four lines and three pairs of defensemen, but I think the one thing we’ve got is character. That’s what our success was based on during this entire year and guys willing to buy in.

On what part of Nate Thompson’s game that makes him so valuable:
He’ll stop a puck with his teeth if he has to. We called him ‘Textbook’ all year long, because if you ask something (of him), you’re going to get exactly that and more. I think that his willingness to pay the price is second to none. The guys who are looking at him and play with him, either from the bench or when we look at video, it’s clear that he’s an inspiration in this type of game.

On the shifts of momentum their PK can provide just by continuing to do what they’ve been doing:
I’ve found sometimes we think we get momentum because of our penalty kill, and some of the games that we’ve killed penalties, we lose the momentum because we can’t get it back. I think it really depends on their frequency within a short span of time. If you get a lot of penalties in a row, it has a tendency – even if you kill them – it’s going to kill your offense and kill your momentum. So we got away from that. I think last game, it was a bit more spread out and we were able to get some energy from our penalty kill and quickly turn it back into some offense and some momentum. But it’s clear in a seventh game that we have to be out of the box. Even though our penalty kill has been doing well, you’re either giving momentum to the other team or you’re at least giving up some scoring chances, because I think most of their scoring chances last game came from their power play. If we can avoid that and continue to do what we’re doing five-on-five, we’re certainly giving ourselves a better chance.

On how it was said this series was expected to go seven games and what he did or didn’t expect from his team:
Well, we expected it was going to take them a little time to get accustomed to what is needed in the playoffs. We expected the other team to have that already, and it showed, I think, in the first games. But we also expected ourselves to learn, and learn fast and adapt. I think our players did that. I think right now, coming to Game 7, is desperation versus desperation. Whether you’re at home or not, whether you’ve got injuries or not – nothing matters. It’s going to be a crazy game. It’s a funny thing, before the series I said it was going to go in seven (games), maybe a third overtime. So if that’s the case, well, it’s going to be good for everybody, especially the fans.

Oh Lord: Michelle Crechiolo

12:39 PM:
Sometimes there just aren't enough locker room stalls. Sorry Nick Johnson.

12:31 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room II: the sequel (with a much bigger budget)...

James Neal

On what he’s expecting in his first-ever Game 7 and what the team has to do:
You just have fun. These are the games that you grow up dreaming about. When you are in school and play street hockey you would say it’s Game 7 and going into overtime. Just have fun with it and don’t put any added pressure on yourself. Go out there, play well and play hard for your team and do your job.

If getting a power-play goal is extra important in Game 7:
Yeah, I hope so. We have been working hard and putting a lot of emphasis on it. Hopefully we get that bounce tonight. We’ve just got to work hard, shoot the puck and create traffic in front. We need to bang one home and get a big goal for our team.

On the impact Sidney Crosby still has as a leader off the ice:
He is around helping guys out all the time. He has been like that since the day I got here. I haven’t had the chance to see him on the ice yet in a game situation, but he does as much as he can. We know how bad he wants to be out there. He gives little tips here and there. He helps everybody.

Paul Martin

On what has not gone so well defensively the past few games:
I think we have got away from some of the things that we were doing well earlier. Some of these bounces you can’t control. Sometimes we have to deal with it better in front of our net and that’s everybody.

On having experience of playing in Game 7 when he was with New Jersey:
I played against Carolina in a Game 7 once. You definitely realize the desperation of the situation. You know how important it is and nobody wants to end their season early. It’s just one of those things that everyone needs to make sure they know what their role is and we step it up. There will be a lot of energy. You also have to contain that and not get too excited. There are a lot of things that go into a Game 7. Hopefully we are ready.

On how the “one and done” mentality helps to focus on your game:
Yeah, I think everyone knows what their role is on the team. The important part is making sure that you are ready to go. I think it’s up to our own guys to make sure they don’t do too much and don’t do things they are not normally used to doing. We need to just keep it simple and keep doing what we have been doing to make us successful.

Marc-Andre Fleury

On if he relishes the situation of a Game 7:
It would have been nice to have gotten it done earlier. But now we are here, I think it is a big game for everybody here and for their team also. These games are always very intense and very exciting. It should be fun to play.

On if the players on the roster last year can take positives from Game 7 versus Montreal:
That was definitely a tough loss last year. But this is a new season. We are playing a different team and we have different guys on the team. It is a different situation. I think we have just got to be ready and prepared for what is coming tonight and give it everything we got.

On if just having one pivotal game makes it easy to forget about everything that has happened previously in the series:
I think there are some positives. We played some good games to get here today. I think we know what we have done right and what we have done wrong so we can just be ready for tonight.

On the attitude seeming calm in the locker room due to having veterans who have been through this situation before:
I think the fact that we have been through it a couple of times already in the past couple of seasons helps with the experience we got from it, for sure. Everyone is going to be excited and hoping to have a great game. But also, we have got to play our game and stay calm and composed. That is how we are going to be successful.

Royal Wedding: Joe Prince-Wright

12:15 PM:
Pics to get you psyched for Game 7...

Henrik Sedin. Or is that Daniel Sedin? Or maybe Paul Martin (left); Godard studys the blank ice board for a hidden 3D image. Spoiler: it's a sailboat (right)

Letestu: "What do you call a cow with no legs? Ground beef." Dupuis: Laughs (left); Asham meditates on the four noble truths of Buddhism (right)

Engelland works on his shooting from one knee technique (left); Jordan Staal - international man of mystery

Letestu - I've got nothing (left); That waterbottle fears for its life as Orpik takes a drink (right)

Fleury did some yoga before practice. He's doing the pigeon pose above. After that Fleury did the downward facing dog (left); Even marked glass can't hide the look of concentration on the faces of Kunitz and Letestu (right)

Sun Salutations: Dori Minnis

12:10 PM:
Sounds heard around the locker room...

Brooks Orpik

On if there’s something unique mentally about getting up for a game that’s one and done:
Yeah, I think psychologically. Out of the four of them I’ve played in, they've all been a lot different. It’s tough to really know what to expect out of this one, but you just approach it like any other elimination game.

On if this one feels different going in:
I don't know if it feels any different going in. I think everyone is really excited, really loose this morning, and you know what’s at stake. I think you just don’t obviously know the outcome, but you want to think you’re going to know how the game plays out by the way you’re going to play.

On Fleury’s demeanor before games like this:
Same as always. He’s a pretty loose guy. He had a good practice and he’s a guy that has a short memory, so that’s a good thing as a goalie.

On this being a big opportunity for Fleury and how he likes these big moments:
Yeah, he’s been great in these situations, so I don’t think anyone expects anything less. So hopefully we don't put too much pressure on him in terms of giving up chances.

On the team getting off to strong starts in crucial moments like this:
At home we’ve got the advantage of the crowd, you can play off that pretty well. If you look back at Game 5 where the outcome wasn't what we wanted but the start was exactly what we wanted. Hopefully we have a similar start like that, and if even if we don’t score first or don’t score at all in the first period, just don’t get frustrated with that. Just kind of stay the course here, no matter what happens. You just play that way for 60 minutes.

Chris Kunitz

On what the team has learned from previous Game 7s:
Just to play your game no matter what the score is, no matter what you’ve got to go (against), play right through to the end. We’ve seen so far in the playoffs that nobody’s really been out of it, so you have to make sure you stick to your system, stick to your game plan and play the whole 60 minutes.

On if there’s any reason why there’s been so many Game 7s in this first round:
Not really. Maybe some teams are fairly equal in the way they play. Some series have been up and down, a lot of goaltending changes. Things like that have been something that’s been popular this year. So a lot of teams have good players and everyone’s competing hard.

On what goes through his head when he watches other Game 7s:
It’s fun. It’s exciting. You get anxious for the game, you want to play, you want to be out there. Everybody wants to be able to go out there and be the hero for your team. Sometimes it might not be the guy scoring goal, but the guy taking the check to make a play or putting pucks deep like that. We believe in ourselves, believe in our goalie, believe in our defense. We’ve got to go out there and play our game and get the win tonight.

Jordan Staal

On if he’s surprised at how many Game 7s there have been:
It’s definitely the kind of statement where every team is so close and it’s definitely the way the teams are spread out throughout the league that every team has a chance to win, and that makes for an exciting series.

On how he finds that next level for a Game 7 where it’s a do-or-die mentality:
It’s a desperate time and it’s just a part where you don’t want to lose. So it’s just finding a way to win the game no matter what it takes and you find that level when you need it.

On if that helps trying to find answers to questions they still have, like the power play:
Yeah, I think so. Again, everything is so desperate and you have to execute with those plays. Hopefully we can do that tonight.

On balancing previous experience from Game 7s with treating this as its own game:
It’s another game. You’ve been doing the same things all year long, you don’t want to change anything just because it's a Game 7. You want to stick with the system and stick with what we do best, and we’ll find a way to hopefully win the game.

Waiting for this moment all her life: Michelle Crechiolo

10:33 AM:
The Pens are on the ice for their Game 7 morning skate. All the usual suspects are accounted for (Nick Johnson and Matt Cooke skated earlier this morning). The team used the following line combos during the skate:


10:00 AM:
  • "What's there to say when it's all been said?" - Hot Water Music
  • "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." - Vince Lombardi
The final showdown is upon us - Game 7. Both teams are aware of what's at stake - no tomorrow, do-or-die, winner-takes-all, blah blah blah. And the fans all know what's on the line. This is it.

Everyone can feel the excitement of a Game 7 - the anxiety, the intensity, the joy, the pain, the sublime, the euphoric. Every play takes on so much more importance: every shift; every hit; every shot; every save; every scoring chance could be the difference between winning and losing; the difference between advancement and extinction.

The Pens battled through injuries and an 82-game season to have home-ice advantage in the playoffs for this scenario. Pittsburgh wants to be hosting the final contest in its building and with its fans. Both teams have laid it all on the line for six games and now 60 minutes (or maybe more) will be all that remains to be played between the Pens and Lightning.

There is nothing better (or worse) than a Game 7. In a few hours the puck will drop in what will be the beginning of the end for one of these two teams. The players know what they have to do and it's just a matter of doing it.

The Game 7 excitement is palpable. I can feel it coming in the air tonight.

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