Game Seven is hockey’s answer to a loser-leave town match.
Game Seven is a walk across the tightrope juggling chainsaws.
Game Seven is the final scene in Star Wars, with one shot to blow up the Death Star.
And here come the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins, playing Game Seven Thursday night for the right to go to the Stanley Cup Finals. Think of it like Final Jeopardy, only the answers are in a foreign language.
Does the Lightning consider coming back with Ben Bishop, who walked through Amalie Arena without a limp on Tuesday night. Probably not. Coach Jon Cooper said Wednesday that Bishop is likely out.
Do they tweak their lines? Do they adjust a defense that the Penguins seem to have figured out? Can they figure out the power play?
If anything, history is on the Lightning’s side. The Bolts have played in six Game Sevens in their history, and they are 5-1. They have never surrendered more than one goal in a Game Seven. Against Pittsburgh, they are 1-0 in a Game Seven, winning 2-1 in 2011 on their way to the Eastern Conference Final.
For the Bolts, those Game Sevens include Nikolai Khabubilin and Bishop, the team’s best goaltenders. If it’s Vasilevskiy on Thursday, he has to have his best game.
“We’re a confident bunch,” said forward Ryan Callahan. “We know what it takes.”
If not, the Lightning needs only to remember a year ago. Then, too, the Lightning botched Game Six. Then, too, the Bolts had to fly to play on the road. And then, Tampa Bay beat the Rangers 2-0.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it will go the same way this year. The Pens have scored at least three goals in all six of the previous games, and they’re coming off a five-goal game. They are averaging more than 38 shots a game.
That means the defensemen of the Lightning have to do a better job. Vasilevskiy can stand up to 24-25 shots a game. Have him face nearly 40, and he’s swimming with the sharks.
If Tampa Bay is going to continue its Game Seven dominance, it starts by stopping the puck. And then by silencing the fans.