It all comes down to this. The season's previous 279 periods and 93 games are all irrelevant to the three or more periods in tonight's Game 7, as the Sharks host the Predators for the final time this postseason.
If the Sharks win, they advance to the Conference Final for the first time since 2011 to face the Blues. If the Sharks lose, the Predators advance beyond the second round for the first time in franchise history, and the Sharks enter the offseason, knowing their window is closing as two franchise cornerstones enter the final year of their contracts. So, no pressure or anything.
But, these teams aren't thinking long term, their visions firmly tunneled on tonight's winner-take-all contest. The Predators have immediate experience in a Game 7, winning one on the road last round against the Anaheim Ducks. This is the Sharks' first Game 7 this postseason, but they, too, have plenty of experience. Of the 20 players dressed for Game 6, 16 have played in a Game 7 in the NHL.
It's as unique a situation as any in sports, with the potential for highs just as great as the potential for lows. To borrow one of former Fear the Fin's favorite references: hold on to your butts, folks.
Tale Of The Tape
|41-27-14||Regular Season Record||46-30-6|
|4th in Central||Regular Season Finish||3rd in Pacific
||Regular Season Even Strength, Score-Adj. Fenwick||53.3%
||Regular Season PDO||100.4|
||Regular Season PP%||22.5|
||Regular Season PK%||80.5|
The Predators overcame a first period two-goal deficit and a one-goal deficit in the third period, leading to Viktor Arvidsson's game-winning and series-tying goal in overtime.
- The home team has won each game this season, as the coaches have really utilized last change. In San Jose, for instance, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun have matched up primarily with the Wilson, Fisher, and Neal line. In Nashville, Peter Laviolette deployed the trio against Brent Burns and Paul Martin. Those are just two examples, but DeBoer will be able to get his desired matchups tonight.
- Small sample size in 3:53 of ice time, but Matt Nieto was one of the few bright spots in Game 6. His chemistry with Joel Ward and Chris Tierney was readily apparent on the Sharks' first two goals of the night. Nieto, though, did not practice yesterday. If he misses tonight, the Sharks' depth will take a big hit. I doubt DeBoer taps into the Black Aces for a Game 7, so look for Tommy Wingels to draw in if Nieto can't go.
- Joel Ward's game 7 experience is a big reason the Sharks signed him this summer, and is sure to be mentioned repeatedly on tonight's broadcast. Ward scored the series-clinching goal for Washington against the Bruins in 2012.
- Also likely to be mentioned is the Sharks' most recent Game 7, a loss to the Los Angeles on home ice two years ago, but all time, the Sharks are 5-4 in Game 7s. Their last game 7 win happened five years, and only four current Sharks (Vlasic, Thornton, Marleau, and Couture) dressed in that game.