Game Seven: Whatever it takes

Bill Wippert/NHLI

It all comes down to this. Game Seven. It’s always Game Seven, but now it’s really Game Seven, if that makes sense. Every game in the playoffs is a must-win, but this is about as big as it gets.

After two consecutive collapses, I’m not going to say I think the Sabres will win. I’d also have a hard time saying I think the Flyers will win. I think Philly has been the better team in the series, but neither has been great.

I don’t think Ryan Miller has been as good as he gets credit for being, but he has done well given the poor defensive showing in front of him.

People are talking about the Sabres’ new-found toughness this series. Being tough is a lot more than pushing a guy after the whistle when he just bumped your goalie. That needs to happen 82 times a year, minimum. That’s basic hockey.

The Sabres really need to check themselves. They all need to take a long look in the mirror before they head down to the arena tonight. Game Seven toughness is different. When you go down to block a shot, you can’t secretly be wishing it misses you. Blocking that shot is going to hurt, but if you want to win the game, you need to go out and actively seek that pain.

It’s not enough to want it. Everybody wants the glory. Giving everything you have on every single shift may not be enough. If you want to win a Game Seven, you need to find some other level inside you that you haven’t been able to get to.

Many players may not even know they have it in them, younger guys especially. Every one of Jerry Sullivan’s columns lately has been about Danny Briere. He’s feeling it. He’s in the zone. I don’t like the guy anymore. He’s a cake eater now; he’s one of them. But dammit do I respect him. Briere has been on another level lately. It’s been Game Seven for him for quite some time. Thomas Vanek has shown flashes. He’s not there yet, but almost.

I think I just referenced the Mighty Ducks and Anchorman in the same paragraph. I love it.

It looks like Derek Roy will play. Andrea Sekera might too. The Sabres are going to need the lift. If anything, it gives two fresh bodies who haven’t taken a beating yet.

Finishing your checks and standing up for your teammates, your brothers, does not make you a playoff hero. It makes you a decent player in the regular season. Every player needs to find the heart of Nathan Gerbe, the feistiness of Pat Kaleta and the killer instinct of, well, Briere.

Everybody talks about composure this time of year. Composure might last for 60 minutes, but at some point tonight, grown men will cry. If it’s not from pain, it’s going to be from sadness.

It’s much better to be watching your boys play in the next round from a hospital bed because you sacrificed your body for the team than it is to be watching someone else play because you weren’t willing to.

Everyone wishes they would have given a little bit more of themselves when they see someone else kissing the Cup. There’s no flea-flicker or hidden ball trick in hockey. If you are going to get somewhere in the NHL Playoffs, you’re going to earn it.

If you want to take a Game Seven, that’s how hard you have to go. That’s the kind of sacrifice it takes to win in hockey. Honestly, I’m not sure the Sabres have it in them. The Flyers were an eight-seed that made it to the Cup finals last year. I’m thinking they might. Maybe it’s better to be a road team. All Buffalo will have in that arena is the 20 guys in blue jerseys on the bench. You do it for the guy next to you, you do it for yourself, and you do it for the Stanley Cup Champion you’ve always wanted to be.

When I think of “Stanley Cup Champion,” I don’t think Sidney Crosby or Pat Kane. I think Ray Bourque and Scott Neidermayer. These are grizzled vets who would do absolutely whatever it took. When the Ducks won the Cup in 2007, Chris Pronger said he separated his shoulder after getting hit during the game, but when it kept popping out, he just popped it back in and kept playing.

I know Drew Stafford wants to win Game Seven. I’m not sure if he is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. Were going to find out just what our Sabres are made out of tonight, and for the sake of the city, I hope they have it in them.

Eighty-eight games and it all comes down to one. The Sabres have their fate in their own hands. Grown men will be left crying tonight. I just hope Terry Pegula isn’t one of them.


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