The beauty of a Game 7 is its randomness.
Just ask Max Talbot.
A cottage industry has sprung up analyzing hockey stats and trends, and a lot of those concepts have been discussed here at length over the course of the season. But the usefulness of statistical analysis dwindles dramatically when the sample size is small.
And no sample size is smaller than one game.
And that makes Game 7 so wonderfully random.
Unlikely heroes emerge in Game 7, they say, and that’s undoubtedly true. No one will forget Talbot’s pair of goals in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup finals.
But unlikely heroes also emerge in Game 3. Or Game 37 of the regular season. We just don’t remember those. Talbot scored two goals five other times in his NHL career, including once in a playoff game in 2012, but nobody remembers them.
Scoring one goal in one game is an objective pretty much every player in the NHL is capable of reaching. It’s just that when the one game is a Game 7, it lives in history forever.
Some notes on Game 7 trends:
— The hockey playoff adage I’ve always believed a little bit is the one that says if you win 6, you win 7.
In Penguins history, it’s remarkably true.
The Penguins have played 14 seven-game series in their history. The winner of Game 6 has won Game 7 in 13 of those series. The lone exception was against Washington in 2009, when the Penguins lost 6 but won 7.
— Home-ice advantage isn’t nearly as important as who wins Game 6. Home teams, all-time in the NHL, are 96-69 in Game 7 (.589 winning percentage). They’re 2-2 this year.
— First goal is pretty important. In NHL history, teams that score first in Game 7 are 123-42 (.745). In the regular season, teams that score first usually win about two-thirds of the time, so it’s a somewhat statistically significant difference. This year, teams scoring first in Game 7 are 4-0.
“First goal is important any time you’re playing, especially against a team like Tampa that has a pretty good neutral zone, a pretty good defensive shell if they get a lead,” Eric Fehr said. “The neutral zone can be pretty important and getting the first goal is a big part of that. You want to score first. You want to score first at home. Goals are tough to come by, especially in a Game 7, so scoring first always helps.”
Fehr, it should be noted, isn’t terribly concerned with these Game 7 stats as a whole.
“I don’t pay attention to any of those stats because at the end of the day, it’s a different game,” he said. “It’s a new game every time. Anything can happen in a Game 7.”
And Game 3. And Game 37 of the regular season.
Some quotes from the locker room after morning skate:
— Ben Lovejoy: “This is a team that doesn’t need 40 shots to score three or four goals. Tampa can beat you as soon as they get one opportunity. They don’t need a lot of shots. We want to be focused and ready from the get-go.”
— Patric Hornqvist, on whether the Penguins will have the same game plan as Game 6: “Only change is there’s going to be a handshake after the game. That’s probably the only difference.”
— Hornqvist on the mood of the room: “Exactly the same thing. I think we’re calm, we’re focused, we’re confident. Just go out there and have fun and take advantage of this opportunity we have here in front of us.”
— Fehr on following the lead of star players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, et al: “We expect those guys to lead the charge. Obviously everybody’s there to back them up. We’re going to do our best to support them. But those guys have been there for us all year. We expect the same.”
— Matt Cullen: “The game happens fast, and that’s why it’s so important that you can’t afford to sit back and watch and see what happens. You’ve got to get out there and try to dictate the play and try to take it to the other team. If you can start first and start fast, you give yourself a good advantage.”
— Ian Cole: “I think in any game situation, you try to visualize certain plays. Do I for the next nine hours constantly replay the game and what’s going to happen? No. I think that might do more detriment than good. I think it’s something where you do want to be aware of the situation, but you can’t let it control your game. What it comes down to is it’s just going to be another game. You really have to go out and not let the situation get the better of you. I don’t think you can change the way you’re playing based on the fact that it is a Game 7.”
— Mike Sullivan: “These are the types of games that you grow up, I think, dreaming to play in, to be a part of. This is why we train so hard all season long. We bring that all to bear tonight.”
— Sullivan on his pregame speech: “I think a lot in these moments, it comes from the heart. I’m not sure at this point that a whole lot needs to be said. I think a whole lot has been said. For us, it’s about embracing the moment and owning your own game and bringing everything to the table that you can to help the team win. It’s such a great feeling to be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself, and these are the type of circumstances that epitomize that.”
More after the game. Bye for now,