Every playoff game is overly intense right? So what makes Game 7 different from any other game in playoff series?
Five players from the Penguins and Lightning were asked if anything feels different heading into a Game 7 compared to a Game 1 or 2. Here are their answers:
Penguins center Eric Fehr - “We know each other. We know what to expect from the other team. I think it's just going out and doing it. We know this is the last game no matter what. You've got to leave it out there. It's just exciting. It's a lot like Game 6. It's an exciting feeling to fight to live another day."
Lightning center Cedric Paquette - "Well you don't know if you're going to go home or go to San Jose. For us, it's a big challenge. We need to take pride in our game.”
Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (right)- "There's a lot of excitement. It doesn't really [feel] any way else. We try to do things the same way we've done the whole year. It's still a hockey game. You don't want to change anything but there's a lot of excitement for sure.”
Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop - "I think it's the same to be honest. You play this many games, a morning skate is a morning skate. I think when you come at probably 8:15 [p.m.], guys will probably realize there's a difference. I think the whole routine before the game, everything's going to stay the same. It's not until the puck really drops, where you really … okay now it's really time to buckle down as far as performance. But I think before, it's the same routine. You don't make the game any bigger than it is. You prepare the same way. My philosophy is preseason, regular season, Game 7 of the conference finals, you've got to prepare the same way so when you get to these situations, they don't become bigger than they need to be.”
Penguins defenseman Ian Cole -"I think come tonight, everything, every play is going to be that much more magnified, right? Being that's it's Game 7, it's the last opportunity to win the game. Game 1 or Game 2, while everything is amplified, there's a still a measure of leniency for the play as far as its not the end of the series. One bad play couldn't result in the end of the series and your season being over. So the gravity that's put on every single play is obviously extremely large.”
Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek - "Yeah, it's different. It's Game 7. It's what we've been playing for. It's like what coach [Jon Cooper] said after Game 6, if we had a chance to go one game for a Stanley Cup [Final] berth, would we take it? Yeah we'd take it obviously. Any team in the league would.”
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang - "It doesn't feel any different. Not at all."
Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman (right) - “No, no, I don't think so. It's still hockey. Nothing has changed. There's no extra lines or [more] goals or anything like that. It's all the same. I certainly don't change anything. I approach this like I did Game 2 when I first got in [to the lineup from injury]. It's about enjoying it, enjoying the moment. Play loose. Have some fun of it. There's not a lot of times you get to play one of these games. I don't think you'll do a good job if you put a lot of pressure on yourself and weight on your shoulders and all that stuff. It's about playing loose and working together as a team.”
Penguins center Nick Bonino - "There's a lot on the line obviously. It's a chance to play for the [Stanley] Cup. You're not feeling the team out any more. You're not unfamiliar with them. There's familiarity there, an intensity that maybe wasn't there before. Not only do you want to get to the [Stanley Cup Final] but you just want to beat the guys you're playing against and be the best team.”
Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn - "You know what's at stake. The other team knows what's at stake. There's an urgency I think that's a little more heightened compared to those games.”
-There wasn't really much in the way of new out of day's morning skates. It was interesting to note Lightning center Steven Stamkos participated in his team's optional morning skate for approximately 25 minutes. In previous morning skates, Stamkos, sidelined since April 2 due to a blood clot, has skated upwards of a full hour. Stamkos said there was no update on his status but that was at roughly noon. A lot of things can change by the start of the game.
-Bishop confirmed he was out tonight. He said watching a game was much more stressful than playing in one:
“The thing is it's way more nerve wracking," Bishop said. "As crazy as that might sound, it's way more nerve wracking having to watch a game. When you go out there and playing, you're not thinking. You're doing. You're not thing. When you're watching, you're doing a lot of thinking. So it's tough to watch. Every game has been nerve wracking. Now Game 7, that's going to be tough.”
-After being a healthy scratch for Game 5, Penguins left winger Conor Sheary (right) had a fairly strong Game 6. He logged 12:07 of ice time on 18 shifts and had an entry into the offensive zone which led to him setting up a second period goal by defenseman Kris Letang:
-Sheary said a game off might have done him some good.
"I didn't have the jump I normally do," Sheary said. "Maybe rest was good for me. I think I may have been trying to do too much. Sometimes, when you play with high-end players like that, you kind of try to find them all the time and you're not making the easiest play, the simple play. So I think I just had to do a little less than I was the games prior."
(Photos: Mike Carlson/Getty Images, Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images and Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)