The Red Wings’ fate has come down to 60 minutes of hockey.
If the Wings win Game 7 on Tuesday in Glendale, Ariz., they advance to the Western Conference semifinals with hopes of making a third consecutive run to the Stanley Cup finals. If they lose, their injury-riddled, adversity-filled season is over.
But the battle-tested Wings aren’t breaking under the pressure. In fact, they’re looking forward to the challenge—it’s the fans’ nerves they’re worried about.
“I think it’s harder if you’re a bystander watching it than being on the ice,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom
said following Sunday’s 5-2 loss. “On the ice, you want to be part of something big in the playoffs, and Game 7 is getting bigger and bigger. It’s something fun to be a part of.”
While the Wings had a chance to close out the series in Sunday’s Game 6 on Joe Louis Arena, they know there’s no use in looking back. At this point, nothing matters but getting their minds right for Tuesday, especially since they won’t be playing in front of a home crowd.
“We face having to win a game on the road,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve played well in their building thus far in the series, I think it’s important that we obviously get regrouped.”
The Wings have experienced 20 Game 7s in franchise history, while the Coyotes have played in four. Detroit has only played four of those games on the road, finishing with a 1-4 record.
However, Lidstrom alone has played in three more Game 7s than the entire Phoenix organization as a whole. His team’s experience in such pressure-filled situations paired with their desire to make up for Sunday’s loss is what he thinks will help them win.
“We know what’s on the line, we know what Game 7 means,” Lidstrom said. “That’s why you have to be ready for that challenge, and really play with a lot more desperation than we did in the second and third period (Sunday).”
Forward Darren Helm
is actually looking forward to playing at Jobing.com Arena, a venue the Wings have won two of their three games at thus far in the series.
“It’s going to be an exciting game, they’ve got great fans, they’ve got a good atmosphere, they play hard in their building,” he said. “So it’s going to be an exciting game for us to go into their rink and try to pull one off.”
The Wings are also anticipating the chance to prove themselves after an uncharacteristically bumpy regular season, where securing a playoff berth wasn’t always a sure thing.
“They’re a real good team, we like to think we’re a better team,” Babcock said. “The great thing about this seventh game? We’re all going to find out the answer to that. Because in my opinion, the best team advances. Real simple.”