The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals' highly anticipated second-round playoff series will be decided in an epic Game 7 at the Verizon Center on Wednesday night.
After all the hype that this series has garnered featuring two historical rivals, the three best players in the world, six evenly matched contests and the sideshow distractions that Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau called “the circus,” everything comes down to a 60-minute battle in a do-or-die, winner-takes-all affair.
“There was a lot of talk before the series started and it’s everything it was made up to be,” captain Sidney Crosby
said. “Let’s just say we’re all not surprised that it’s going to Game 7. We’ll leave it out there and see what happens.”
“It’s Game 7 so I hope that we are coming with our best effort,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said. “I think that we have played well the entire series. It would be one thing if we were really struggling and we weren’t playing our top game and we let them back into the series, but I think we’re playing well. We’re just going to have to try and combat (Washington) in Game 7 and try to get a win on the road.”
The series has been so evenly matched and close that five of the six contests have been decided by one goal – the lone exception was Pittsburgh’s 5-3 win in Game 4 – and three games have gone into overtime. Each game has seen numerous swings in momentum and constant lead changes that sets up for an unpredictable Game 7.
It’s Game 7, now it’s coming down to that point where one shot and one situation is going to be talked about as the deciding one. - Dan Bylsma
“You’re talking about two really good teams,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said. “It’s Game 7, now it’s coming down to that point where one shot and one situation is going to be talked about as the deciding one. It’s really about how you play the game and how you dictate the game and that’s what we are going (to try to) do.”
“It’s two pretty evenly matched teams and that’s what you would expect from two teams like that and that’s what it comes down to,” said blueliner Mark Eaton, who has scored four goals in the this postseason. “It’s Game 7, that’s what we play for. It’s fun and it’s going to be exciting and we’re looking forward to it.”
Pittsburgh will be entering a hostile environment in Washington the series finale on Wednesday. The Penguins have put together some great performances in the first six games, including their three showdowns in Washington. The Penguins goal is to establish their play early and possibly take the crowd out of the game.
“It’s really important, especially the first five or 10 minutes, we have to take the air out of the building and make them play our way,” Scuderi said. “I think we’ve been able to do that the three games we’ve played there. We didn’t get the outcome in the first two games but we did it all three and if we can do that maybe we can get into the groove of our game and dictate the play and hopefully get the lead.”
Pittsburgh missed an opportunity to end the series in Game 6 at Mellon Arena, coming up inches shy when Scuderi’s shot in overtime hit the crossbar. But the Penguins have already put the loss behind them and are focusing on the positives from the game and giving everything they have in Game 7.
“It’s already behind us,” rookie Alex Goligoski said. “We’ll look at what we could have done better but there’s no use weeping over it now. We just have to go get ready for Game 7.”
Over the past two postseason, the Penguins have rebounded well after losses to eliminate their opponent – including last round against the Philadelphia Flyers. Pittsburgh has successfully advanced in three such instances and the team is confident history can repeat itself.
“You draw on the last series and there is a sense of confidence because we have been in that situation but you have to do it again,” Crosby said. “We realize that. It’s a challenge but it’s something we know we are capable of doing. We really believe in the way we have been playing and if we play that way, it’s going to work out.”
So the entire season comes down to one game. But this kind of adversity is nothing new to the Penguins, who have overcome so mnay obstacles already this season and have conquered the task each time. In fact, the team is looking forward to the challenge.
“This is a challenge but something that if there is a group of guys who are capable we know it’s the ones in our locker room,” Crosby said. “We believe the way we are playing is going to get good results. We were two inches away from finishing it off (in Game 6). We had a big effort and it didn’t happen but we believe if we have that same effort, things are going to go our way.”