Every kid dreams about playing in a Game 7. Whether you’re playing hockey or not, a kid will never forget the time he was playing in his backyard, imagining 20,000 people chanting his name as he counts down the final seconds. Now, reality sets in. This isn’t a dream. This is real life. And the players feel that.
“Every kid has gone through it, dreamed of it, and now here we are for a chance to get to the Western Conference Final” said Brayden Schenn coming off the ice this morning. “It’s Game 7. You have to keep the emotions in check and don’t want to be running around too much, but if the opportunity is there to make a hit and get the crowd and boys going, that’s one part of my game I try to bring.”
Scheduled for 7:00 tonight, it’s fun to hear what the players are thinking going into this do or die game. They’ve been pushed by their fierce and demanding leader, Craig Berube, and it’s interesting to hear what he’s telling his guys going in. “We are prepared and the team is in a good spot. Time to relax the best we can until the puck drops and the key is getting to our game as quickly as possible.” The Blues have had a tendency to score early during this series and if they can continue this momentum, they can set the tone early in this game. “The team is dialed in and ready. They’ve been involved in this situation for a long time now, battling and fighting to get in the playoffs. And obviously we’ve had some big important games in the playoffs too. They responded well.”
He’s made changes in the lines and he’s not afraid to adjust their game to better the team. He did that in Game 6 and it led to a positive outcome. He slotted Sammy Blais to the second line next to O’Reilly and Perron and they gelled nicely. Blais even left the game tallying a goal in his first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance.
Let’s reminisce on his goal for a second. Heading on an odd man break next to veteran Ryan O’Reilly, Blais never hesitated shooting the puck. Did #90 communicate to him not to pass but rather take his shot? According to Blais, “He told me to go, but I was kind of tired. I was waiting for him a little bit but he was on his backhand. So I just made a loop, saw an opening on the blocker side and fired it.” That must take a lot of confidence, right? “I kind of knew I was going to score but I might have surprised him a bit,” Blais said. That type of belief is needed in elimination games and Blais didn’t miss a beat.
Now, we can’t forget about the guy he scored on. St. Louis native Ben Bishop will be in net for the Stars tonight and, as his status should be monitored after taking a scorcher off the collarbone on a Colton Parayko slap shot last game, he will be a true difference maker playing in front of his home city.
Does playing in your hometown mean anything more in this game? “It’s about taking one game at a time. Doesn’t matter the scenario, where it is or what game it is, it’s just another hockey game. It’s about approaching every game the same and to not make it any bigger than it is,” said Bishop.
Of course the injury is looming though. There’s no way he feels 100%, right? He reassures everything is fine.
How’s the left side feeling? “It’s good.” Can you describe how it’s feeling? “It’s good.” Laughter ensues. “No it’s good, it really is, it’s fine.” During pregame warmups something may change. The coaching staff may see something they don’t like but as of right now he’s ready to go and ready to perform in front of his friends and family.
The Blues haven’t been good at home this series, but that doesn’t matter. Game 7 is an entirely different animal. Whether the stats show it or not, home ice is important for the Blues. Hit the reset button. They have the advantage tonight.