Morning Skate: Game 7 - Do or Die, Part IV

DETROIT - MAY 10: Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings controls the puck in front of Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks during the second period in Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 10, 2011 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)


It's now or never.

Another "Do or Die" situation tonight.

A win sends the Red Wings to Vancouver to play the Canucks in the Western Conference Finals.  A loss sends them home to Detroit to wonder "What if?"

Six days ago the Wings began their improbable run.  Down 3-0 in the series, we all hoped that the Wings could make history and now this team has a chance to make those hopes and dreams become a reality.  The phrase "GAME 7" brings so many different emotions to hockey fans.  When it's not your team playing, a game 7 can be the best, most exciting hockey to watch.  When it's your favorite team playing, it can be the worst, most stressful few hours of one's life.

Let us not forget though, this team has been playing a "GAME 7" in each of the last three games.  As you see in the title, tonight is Part IV.  The Wings have played with the "Do or Die" attitude all week and there is no reason to change the game plan now. 

Mike Babcock and his team have death-stared elimination in the face...and elimination blinked. 

Tonight they try to do it one more time. 

History.  Will.  Be.  Made.

 

Puck drop is just after 9p ET on Fox Sports Detroit for the locals and Versus for us out-of-towners. 

Fear The Fin is your SBNation Sharks blog.

More after the jump.

 

The Expected Lineup

Mike Modano / Johan Franzen -- Pavel Datsyuk -- Tomas Holmstrom

Todd Bertuzzi -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Danny Cleary

Jiri Hudler -- Valtteri Filppula -- Justin Abdelkader

Drew Miller / Kris Draper -- Darren Helm -- Patrick Eaves

 

Nicklas Lidstrom -- Brad Stuart

Brian Rafalski -- Jonathan Ericsson

Niklas Kronwall -- Ruslan Salei

 

Jimmy Howard (starting)

Joey MacDonald

 

Scratches: Chris Osgood, Jakub Kindl, and 2 of the following: Modano, Franzen, Draper, Miller, & Hudler

Aces: Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar, Ilari Filppula, Jan Mursak, Derek Meech, Brian Lashoff, Doug Janik and Jordan Pearce

It will be fun to see what lineup Babcock has in store for us.  If the Mule can go, he's in.  In my mind, there is zero doubt that Draper is playing in this game.  He's been around the block more than once when it comes to these game 7 situations.  I bet Babcock planned all along to rest him in game 6 so he'd be fresh for game 7.  His speed and leadership are key assets tonight.  The last scratch will be the interesting one.  Specialty teams are always important and Miller can play a big role on the PK.  With that said, Hudler and Modano are also valuable on the 2nd PP unit.  it's game 7, damnit, and it's all the line.  Uncle Mike will make the right call.  In Babcock We Trust.

 

 

DET HOW THEY MATCH UP (PLAYOFF EDITION) SJ
3.40 (2nd) GOALS PER GAME 2.92 (7th)
2.50 (5th) GOALS AGAINST PER GAME 3.00 (10th)
20.5 (8th) POWER PLAY % 12.5 (13th)
76.7 (13th) PENALTY KILL % 81.3 (T-7th)
Nicklas Lidstrom (4 goals) GOAL LEADER 3 tied with 5 goals
Pavel Datsyuk (14 points) POINTS LEADER Ryane Clowe (13 points)

 

 

Key to the Game:  The Red Wings' best players.  Like Babcock always says, "Our best players need to be our best players."  Lidstrom, Datsyuk, and Zetterberg...that's you.  Does that mean they need to score all the goals and register all the points tonight?  Nope.  But they need to come out and set the tone for the team and lead the way.  Make that extra push on the back check.  Win those head-to-head battles in the corners.  Make those little plays that make the difference in a crucial game.  If the leaders of this team step up and do that, the rest of the team and the role players will follow suit and make a big play.  The men with the letters on their sweaters.  Set the tone.  Lead this team.  Get the job done.

 

Match-up to Watch: Jimmy Howard vs Antti Niemi.  Who's going to make that one big save when their team needs it the most?  Who's going to stand on their head and steal a game 7?  We've seen what both goalies can do when they're peppered with a ton of shots and when they have very little work to do in a game.  It's not about pitching the shutout in this one (although that would be nice, James).  It's about making the important save when you need it the most.  Jimmy has played one game 7 in his career.  Niemi will lose his game 7 virginity tonight.  I mentioned that Lidstrom and the Eurotwins needed to be the Wings best players?  Well, Jimmy, I'm adding you to the list.  This team needs you.  If history is to going to be made tonight, a legend could be made right along side it.

 

For Discussion: The Wings are 13-8 all time in game 7s.  The Sharks are 4-2.

 

Game 7 History for this Red Wings Era (post-lockout):

2009 Western Conference Semifinals - Detroit 4, Anaheim 3

2009 Stanely Cup Finals - Pittsburgh 2, Detroit 1

2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals - Detroit 6, Phoenix 1

 

Bottom Line:  Win. This. Game.

 

Let's Go Red Wings.

 

 

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