In Wednesday night’s three Game 7s, there are three head coaches participating in their first seventh games: Rookie bench bosses Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche and Craig Berube of the Philadelphia Flyers, as well as Mike Yeo of the Minnesota Wild, whose only playoff appearance as head coach was a five-game ouster by the Chicago Blackhawks.
So how are they approaching the biggest games of their respective seasons?
Roy, to the surprise of no one, is oozing confidence as the Avalanche prepare for a Game 7 on their home ice.
“It would be tough for me to sell it to my players if we were on the road,” said Roy, who watched stars Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog fail to register a point in three games in Minnesota. “You want to have Game 7 at home."
Roy played in 13 Game 7s during his career. His last one was a loss to the Wild.
“What [will] revenge do to me anyway?” said Roy. “I had my runs. Mentally, we weren’t as hungry as this group is today.”
The advice to his players: Be the better team away from the puck.
“We want to be better without the puck. Manage our game well. That’s the key in a Game 7,” said Roy. “We should be excited about it. You don’t win a Stanley Cup without winning a Game 7.”
Or winning your first-round series.
His counterpart, Yeo, was a bit more aggressive in getting his troops prepared for Game 7. He made wholesale changes to his lineup in order to break the “bad vibes” of their defensive performances in Denver, where they’ve given up 13 goals in three games.
Yeo will likely start with Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle; Nino Niederreiter-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville (good line early in the season); Matt Moulson-Erik Haula-Dany Heatley. I am worried about the speed on the wings, but Moulson and Pominville haven't played well together and Heatley has played well the past three games. If the Wild wins tonight, I bet you Heatley will be a big part of it. I just have this feeling.
"Subtle changes," Yeo said, before adding with a laugh. "OK, pretty much everything."
They changed their flight time yesterday, changed the way they practiced, the team meal time changed and instead of going into the restaurant, they got a private room, the bus times were changed today from 12:30 and 12:45 to 12:27 and 12:47 and every player's locker stall is different.
Who knew out of Mike Yeo and Patrick Roy that Yeo wouldn’t be the ritualistically superstitious that an ex-goalie?
Like Roy, Berube doesn’t have a ton of players with Game 7 experience, at least in a Flyers uniform. Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen are the only players that have appeared in Game 7s in a Philly sweater, according to CSN Philly.
“I don’t think it matters how you get to Game 7,” Berube told Tim Panaccio. “We’re there and that was our goal and we accomplished one goal and we’ve got to go in and accomplish another one and that’s the way we look at it. We all talked about getting to that game. We’re there now. So we’ve got to prepare ourselves to go win a game and that’s about it. I don’t think it matters how you get there.”
His approach to Game 7 is to rely on the same spirit that rallied the Flyers from an early season disaster to a No. 3 seed in the Metro – as well as a dominating Game 6 win over the Rangers.
“They’ve played a lot of hockey where their backs have been against the wall and they’re used to it. It’s in them they have good character, we’ve got the same test,” he said.
It’s a character test for coaches as much as it is for players. Who says the right things? Who makes the right lineup calls? Who pulls their goalie with five minutes left and down a goal?
OK, we’re pretty sure we know who that last guy is...