Mike Babcock brings up a good point: "The whole key here is, just play the game. Don’t make it bigger than it is -- just play... It’s about will. It’s about to sticking to your plan for longer. It’s about that power-play goal that goes off somebody and in the net versus wide of the net.”
If the Red Wings don't have any of this tonight, our season is done, people. Will it be the end of the world? Until late September, yes. Will I be sad? Yes, but two months ago, I was just praying for us to make it to the playoffs and said I didn't care if we lost in the first round. If we go out now, I'll be disappointed, but that won't last as long as our last Game Seven disappointment lasted.
Phoenix reminds me a lot of Anaheim. And what did we do to Anaheim in the playoffs the last time we saw them? We beat them in Game Seven, with a heroic late-game goal by Dan Cleary. Hey Cleary - if you do that tonight, I promise I will give in and start calling you "Danny," okay? Okay.
I did manage to sleep in this morning, but the nervousness was there immediately. But let's look on the positives for tonight and my Keys to Victory! Those are important, right?
1. Jimmy Howard. Remember him? He's the guy who's either being hugged and congratulated by everyone, or getting fiery internet pitchforks thrown at him. He'll be ready to prove himself. Let's quote Babs again:
"I think if you're Jimmy Howard, you've got to be pretty ecstatic. It's your first year in the NHL, you've won a starting job, you've been nominated for the Calder Trophy and now you get to play in a Game 7. I think it's fantastic. And the other thing about it is that you've got the team here. So for him, it's got to be a great feeling."
I couldn't have said it any better myself. When has Howard played two bad games in a row? The last time he played a bad game in this series, he let in one goal in 120 minutes. That's pretty damn good. Will he bounce back tonight? According to his performance throughout this entire season, yes. I don't think this will be any different.
2. Have we played two bad games in a row this series? More importantly, have we lost two games in a row? The answer is a resounding no. But Phoenix has. Will we do that tonight, with so many of our players pumped for a Game Seven? I sure hope not.
3. Shane Doan. If he's back tonight, you've got to be on him. EDIT: I just got wind that he isn't starting. So be ready for physical play from everyone else on the Coyotes. Let's get Kronwall to finally Kronwall someone! Datsyuk needs to throw his weight around even more and the same goes for Mule. Abdelkader needs to be a BAMF again and throw some punches!
4. Strong penalty killing. Remember what happened after Phoenix got three PP goals in a game? They didn't get another PPG until Game Six when they had three again. Likewise, on the flip side of this point, is a strong power play. Our power play looked good in Game Six, but did we capitalize on anything? No. Which leads me to...
5. GET TOMAS HOLMSTROM INTO HIS OFFICE. Hell, get Johan Franzen into Homer's office. Get Dan Cleary into Homer's office. Just get people in front of Bryz to deflect pucks or screen him. Remember that one game this series where Datsyuk broke his stick during the power play and didn't bother going back to the bench, so he just stood in front of Bryz? Yeah, do that. But, you know, when we're up by a couple goals, not just for the hell of it.
6. IF YOU'RE SKATING DOWN THE WING, DEKE TO THE MIDDLE AND TAKE A QUICK SHOT. BRYZGALOV IS WEAK THERE. Same goes for the post when he's up against it. TAKE SHANAHAN SHOTS. Bryz was really good in the game on Sunday, similar [but not the same] as Halak versus the Capitals last night. The question is, can he carry that over for another game?
7. Lilja's blog is adorable. Why is this a Key to Victory? Because he says that Game Seven "feels inspiring." And if Lils, the Swedish Sensation [or maybe that's Sammy. I don't remember], is feeling inspired, it's likely that the rest of the team is feeling the same way. I know Howard is and I'm sure Babcock gave the Wings a stern talking-to, saying things like, "Don't let this be like the last Game Seven we were in. Have it be like the one before it against Anaheim." And, "Do you really want Game Six to be the last game you ever played at The Joe? Wouldn't you rather it be the Stanley Cup-winning game?" That'll inspire them.
8. Pierre LeBrun will be there. He was at Game Four and Game Five. Is he our good luck charm? At this point, I have a hard time saying no, but I have a hard time saying yes just because I might jinx us.
If we lose tonight, does that mean our legacy is over? Hell no! Nineteen years of making it to the postseason - that's one more year than everyone was giving us three months ago when we were sitting prettily in tenth. We've made it to the SCFs two years in a row, capitalized on one, lost in the other, and made it to the Conference Finals the year before. Everyone just chill out. We're allowed to lose in the first round once every five years, okay?
It hasn't been an eternity since we've won the Cup, even though it feels like it. I will be disappointed if we lose tonight after giving it our heart and soul. I will be angry if we lose tonight after not showing up to the game. I will be ecstatic if we win and will add a bracelet to my "playoff beard," aka my left wrist, which is feeling bare with only three bracelets on it, one for every win.
Let's make it four bracelets, Wings. Let's make it another long run in the playoffs. Let's give the Yotes hell and have the Sharks shaking in their tank waiting for us.
PS - Top-Rated Shuffle: #401/1496: Girl - The Beatles