I suppose it’s only fitting that thunderstorms will be moving through the area today as we prepare for Game 7.
With each passing minute, I’m getting more and more excited to see the Penguins go to battle against the Tampa Bay Lightning for the final time.
The implications of the game are pretty simple: Win and move on to the second round, or lose and break out the golf clubs.
I’m not going to bring up the dismal home ice record for the franchise in a Game 7. There is no room for negativity today.
The Penguins are up against the wall and need the entire support of their fans to help them prevail tonight.
Here are my keys to victory for Game 7:
1. Feed Off The Crowd
On Tuesday, Philadelphia and Vancouver advanced to the second round by winning a Game 7 on home ice.
You can bet their crowds played a role in turning the arenas into hostile environments for the Sabres and Blackhawks.
Tampa Bay handed out noise-making items to fans to make the St. Pete Times Forum even louder.
Penguins fans know how to be loud on their own and it will be up to them to keep CONSOL Energy Center rocking.
2. Go To The Net
Now is the time to pay a price to score a goal. There is no tomorrow at this point.
The mentality of every player on the roster needs to revolve around putting pucks on net and crashing for rebounds.
Don’t be afraid to get your nose dirty, take a hit to make the play.
Dwayne Roloson hasn’t had to deal with black and gold sweaters in his face for much of this series. It’s time to turn the heat up in his kitchen.
3. Protect The Flower
Marc-Andre Fleury can only be asked to do so much without getting help from his teammates.
The defense has to box out Tampa Bay’s attackers and not allow them to set up the backdoor play. If they tie up sticks and clear the crease, Fleury will take care of the rest.
Fleury was a major factor in the Penguins earning home ice for this exact situation.
Hockey is a team game and team defense won them three games in this series. A focus on that aspect will earn them the fourth.
4. Leave It All On The Ice
This needs no explanation. Every player on the roster will need to give it everything they’ve got tonight.
They need to outwork their opponents for 60 minutes, hit anything that moves and clinch a series in front of the home fans for the first time under Dan Bylsma.
Should the Penguins win tonight, they will face either the Washington Capitals or Philadelphia Flyers in the second round.
It all depends on who wins in the other Game 7 this evening between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins.
The Penguins will take on Washington if Boston wins and will face Philadelphia if Montreal wins.
Of course, it’s irrelevant if the Penguins don’t take care of business tonight.
You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CaseySheaPens.