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Balancing Act

Wednesday, 04.27.2011 / 1:39 PM / 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Coverage
By Michelle Crechiolo
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Balancing Act
The Penguins have been in this situation before.

This is the fourth time in their last six playoff series they’ve gone to Game 7, with the most recent coming last year – a loss at home to Montreal in the second round.

While Pittsburgh’s recent familiarity with the epitome of a do-or-die situation certainly helps them keep an even keel with its season on the line, the Penguins know they have to find a balancing act between utilizing their experience and treating this game as a blank slate.

“That was definitely a tough loss last year,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “But this is a new season. We are playing a different team and we have different guys on the team. It is a different situation. I think we have just got to be ready and prepared for what is coming tonight and give it everything we got.”

Forward Maxime Talbot agreed.

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“It’s a new year, it’s something different,” he said. “We’ve got different guys in this dressing room. We can learn from it, that’s for sure, but we’re a totally different team and we’re going to be ready.”

But while the Penguins don’t want to be stuck in the past, there are aspects of having played a Game 7 that will help them tonight.

There are 12 players on Pittsburgh’s active roster that have partaken in at least one Game 7, including both goaltenders. Nine of those Penguins helped the team to victory in the biggest Game 7 a team could possibly participate in – the 2009 Stanley Cup Final in Detroit.

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The most important part, according to forward Chris Kunitz, is realizing how much of an impact one seemingly insignificant play can make.

“You have to take from the experience and knowing that momentum changes and little things usually make up a big play somewhere in the game, whether it’s a turnover or a penalty or getting pucks deep, things like that,” he said. “So you’ve got to make sure you’re sticking to the system and hopefully your team pulls through in the end with playing your game for 60 minutes.”

Head coach Dan Bylsma assured that his team will be ready to do just that.

“You are going to write the story. That is what winners do,” Bylsma said. “We have tried to build that into the team so that when you come down to that one play you will have made it and be ready for and you know the significance of it. When you play that way as a team you give yourselves the chance to tilt the scales in your favor.

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“I think now we are going into a Game 7 that will be everything a Game 7 should be. It going to be an opportunity. It is going to be about us getting to our game and them with their strengths and it is going to come down to one play. But that is one play we have already made a thousand times, and we are going to be ready for it.”

One thing is for certain – when the puck drops tonight at CONSOL Energy Center, the Penguins plan to come out with their best effort.

“I think there is something to be drawn from the emotion and experience of playing Game 7. Do or die for both teams,” Bylsma added.

“I think we’ll lean on some of those experiences, but we also have to play the game. We have to go out and play the game and not just talk about what we’ve learned in the past. It’s a different team. It’s a different year. We’ll have to be ready and refocused to play that game.”
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