Justin Williams has earned the nickname ‘Mr. Game 7’ for his clutch performances in hockey’s most pressure filled moments.
On Wednesday night at Verizon Center, the 35-year-old three-time Stanley Cup champion will skate in his first Game 7 as a Washington Capital. And, from the sounds of it, he can’t wait for the opportunity to grow his legend.
“The approach is our backs have been against the wall for two games,” Williams said after the morning skate in Arlington, “and now theirs are, too.”
“It’s going to be a fight of will,” he added. “And I can tell you one thing: I’m going to give everything I have tonight, make sure I don’t let my teammates down and everyone in this room is going to do the same. We’ll be fine.”
Williams is 7-0 all-time in Game 7s. In those decisive contests, he’s amassed a whopping seven goals and seven assists.
Hence the nickname. (Which, for the record, Williams does not like).
“I don’t have any doubts what Justin is going to bring,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s going to bring his all. And his ‘all’ is pretty good.”
Braden Holtby said Williams’ mental approach to big moments is what separates him from the rest.
“Obviously he doesn’t shy away from anything,” Holtby said. “He never does. He’s never scared to make a mistake. He wants to go out there and accomplish something, and those types of guys are usually successful in pressure-filled games.”
“In saying that, we know he’s going to show up,” the goalie continued, “but we can’t lean on him too much. We need to have the full group if we’re going to have success.”
A goal (or two) from Williams wouldn’t hurt, either. He’s still searching for his first tally of the second round after potting three against Toronto.
“You learn a lot more about yourself, your team, your makeup when it’s win or go home,” Williams said. “And so far we’ve answered the bell. Now it’s their turn. Both us will be colliding tonight and I’m expecting an awesome game. We have a will to win that’s burning.”
And, of course, it’s the will to win burning inside Williams that's helped him deliver in the clutch so often.
“This is not the apex, but it’s pretty close,” he said. “This is the stuff you’re thinking of when you’re a kid. This is Game 7, this is do or die, win or go home. This is everyone’s watching, so let’s see what we’ve got.”