It’s the stuff that dreams are made of, at least going into the game itself. It will take 60 minutes, perhaps even longer, to decide who wins/continues the dream and who loses/faces the crushing emotions the defeat brings.
We’re talking about a Game 7 here. And no matter what emotion may come out of one, there’s nothing like playing in one.
“As a hockey player, you want to talk about the cliché of growing up as a kid, playing on the backyard rink and playing in that Game 7, you just think of that as the ultimate test for any player to see what you’ve got and what you can bring in a high-pressure situation like that,” Jonathan Toews said. “I think that’s the exciting thing.”
A Game 7 brings energy, excitement, anxiety, desperation, the whole shebang, really. And that will all likely be on display when the Blackhawks face the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday night. For the Blackhawks, it’s a chance to complete the conference-final comeback and go to their second Stanley Cup Final in the past three seasons. For the Ducks, it’s a chance to prove they can finish off a series in which they were up. Much like in this series vs. the Blackhawks, the Ducks led Los Angeles 3-2 in 2014 and Detroit 3-2 in 2013; they lost both series.
Whether or not the Ducks are studying their Game 7 history, the Blackhawks glimpse at theirs just enough to remind themselves how to handle certain situations.
“It's very similar to just playing overtime, to be honest with you. Right from the drop of the puck in the first period, every shift is important like it always is," Patrick Sharp said. "It's magnified that much more in a Game 7.
"Our group has played plenty of overtimes, also Game 7s to draw experience from. I like the guys in our locker room; we get excited for opportunities like that [and] we don't shy away. We want the puck, want to score goals, play as well as we can.”
When asked if he would start with the same lines in Game 7 as he did in Game 6, coach Joel Quenneville said, “we’ll see.” He didn’t start that game with Toews and Patrick Kane together on the top line, but it’s likely he will this next contest. As far as personnel changes, it’s doubtful there will be any. The Blackhawks played their best game of this series on Wednesday night. Sure, the Ducks had a serious push in the third period; this is a good team, and a good team is going to threaten. But the Blackhawks withstood it.
Now they’ll see if the momentum they got from Game 6 carries over to Game 7 in Anaheim.
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
“We’ve all been in the situation before, we’ve been on the winning and losing side,” Marcus Kruger said of Game 7s. “It’s exciting, those type of games, when everything’s on the line. It’ll be a good game [Saturday].”
This series begged for a Game 7. It begged for a dramatic ending that certainly would compliment how this entire series has gone. The current players, as kids playing for bragging rights, probably drew up this scenario on the backyard pond countless times. Now many of them are doing it again for the chance at a much bigger prize.
“We can resort to our experience in these situations and just feel confident we’ll go work, that fate is on our side and we’ll find ways to make things happen,” Toews said. “We want to reverse the trend of alternating games, back and forth, with this team. We know we have another step to make if we want to finish this series off on the road.”