PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan)- Well, it’s all come down to this. After establishing a 3-1 series lead over the Capitals, the Penguins have seen it slip away with 4-2 and 5-2 defeats in Games 5 and 6 respectively, leaving a winner-take-all Game 7 tonight in Washington, D.C.
Many Penguins’ fans are doubting whether their hometown Pens can pull off a win and advance past Washington, given the effort displayed at home on Monday in Game 6. But all is not lost, at least according to NHL Network analyst John MacLean, who joined “The Fan Morning Show” on Wednesday.
MacLean says that a Game 7 is a test of the will of a playoff team, as they all come in battered and bruised from the series.
“It’s a mindset, it’s a will,” said MacLean. “That’s all playoffs is, especially this time of year, it’s a test of wills.”
But, do the Penguins have enough “will”?
“As much as you think Pittsburgh is tired, how hard did Washington have to play to beat them the last couple games?” said MacLean. “[For] Pittsburgh, I think they can find it within themselves to dig down and go, ‘OK, speed, speed, get that puck up the ice. Don’t worry about it, get it to an area, push it to an area, let’s start tracking that puck down, let’s start putting the pressure on the Washington Capitals.”
John also talked about the best way to approach a Game 7 as a team and who might step up under the bright lights tonight.
“I think you have to be loose with a business-like attitude,” said MacLean. “You know, Game 7s it’s ‘Who is going to step up?’ They talk about on the other side they’ve got Justin Williams, who’s ‘Mr. Game 7,’ he’s a very intense person, but he’s very casual, he plays the game at an easy speed so that’s probably why he’s had success, nothing rattles him.”
“On the Pittsburgh side, you see Matt Cullen and [Carl] Hagelin, they’ve been successful in Game 7s as well. So sometimes you look at a Game 7 and maybe a guy like Conor Sheary breaks out tonight. Hey, he breaks out no one is going to say, ‘Hey you’ve gotten any goals’ as long as he gets the one that they need in Game 7 everyone is going, ‘Wow, Conor Sheary’s having a great playoffs.’ And guys can build off that.”
MacLean loved everything he heard and read from how the Penguins practiced yesterday as well in getting right back after it and not taking it easy after the Game 6 loss.
“I think he changed the mindset right away. Yeah, they got beat a little bit but he gave them something to grab onto,” said MacLean. “During the playoffs, you always need that little, ‘OK, well how are we going to get to win that next game,’ and I think he said, ‘Let’s get back to our game.’ That’s one thing: speed. I still think Pittsburgh is a faster team.”
John says the speed of the Penguins will be just a part of what may earn the Penguins a Game 7 victory tonight.
“When you use your speed and simplify your game, I think that’s the biggest thing in a Game 7,” said MacLean. “You gotta keep it simple. It’s never a bad shot on net, it’s never a bad time to go to the net. You can never change too early, all the little things that may give you the edge to the hockey game. I still believe that Pittsburgh is going to be able to accomplish that.”
You can hear the entire interview with NHL Network’s John MacLean on “The Fan Morning Show” below.