Game 7: it’s the ultimate conclusion, the final game of a series, the winner-take-all contest, the last chance for a team to continue its postseason.
It’s intense, it’s dramatic, it’s pressure… right?
“I don’t look at it as pressure,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think it’s been fun.”
Welcome to the outlook of a hockey player, whether it’s a past or a present one. What the Blackhawks coach thinks about Game 7s is what his players think, too: they’re fantastic. And the Blackhawks are looking to make another memorable Game 7 moment on Sunday night when they host the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final finale.
The Kings have had their great Game 7 moments already this postseason, and winning this game on the road isn’t intimidating to them one bit. They did it in San Jose, coming back from a 3-0 series deficit in the first round. They did it in Anaheim, manhandling the Ducks in that final game to get to this point. So the Blackhawks know the Kings won’t be daunted by this situation.
And both squads also have impressive numbers in this department: the Blackhawks are 5-0 in elimination games the past two postseasons while the Kings are 6-0 in elimination games this postseason.
“I think it’s good to have experience, for sure, in these kinds of situations. Both teams are good when it comes down to big games, so it’s going to be the toughest game to win of the series,” said Niklas Hjalmarsson. “We can’t relax and think it’s going to be an easy game now. We can play at home; we just have to keep going even harder if we’re going to have a chance to win this game.”
Game 7s: hockey players revel in getting to be part of one. So do their coaches. Whether they want to talk about it or not, there’s pressure. Hey, you lose and your season’s over. But for the parties involved, be it Blackhawks or Kings, the chance to play on this Game 7 stage is thrilling and, yes, fun.
“I really think this series deserved a Game 7, and I think the crowd deserved it, too. And I think it’s going to be a great finish to a great series,” Hjalmarsson said. “Hopefully we’ll be the winner out of this one, but it’s been some really good hockey that’s been playing in these games, definitely.”