SAN JOSE – Scott Gomez, set to play in his 10th career Game 7 on Tuesday night in Los Angeles, was asked on Monday if he had any wisdom to impart on his younger teammates that have never competed in a series-deciding game.
“Yeah. Don’t suck,” said the affable Gomez, with a wide grin.
Then he got serious.
“When you get to this point, it’s kind of the same thing. We were in a position where we had to win (in Game 6), and guys responded well,” he said. “The main thing is, what I was told, is that you can’t change your game. Do what got you here. Obviously, emotions are going to be running high.”
Gomez has been on the winning team in six of his nine Game 7 appearances. He won a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final with the New Jersey Devils in 2003, but also lost one with the Devils in the 2001 Final against Colorado. He recalled the words of Lou Lamoriello.
“If you can look at yourself in the mirror after and know that you gave it your all, that’s what its about,” he said, crediting the Devils’ longtime general manager.
Another guy who’s been there/done that is Dan Boyle. The Sharks defenseman has played in three career Game 7s, winning all of them, including in 2004 when his Tampa Bay Lightning went the distance in the Eastern Conference finals and again in the Stanley Cup Final against Calgary.
Unlike Gomez, Boyle was a part of the Sharks’ most recent Game 7 against Detroit two seasons ago. The Sharks won that game, 3-2, after jumping out to a three games to none series lead that they nearly surrendered.
“It’s definitely a stressful situation, but it’s the most fun I’ve had playing hockey,” Boyle said. “It’s the best time to play.”
Does the 36-year-old have any advice for a player that will be playing in his first career seventh game?
“Just try not to make it a bigger deal than what it actually is. Go out and enjoy it. Just enjoy it. Just don’t over think it, or it can get the best of you,” Boyle said.
Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said that San Jose could use its collective experience in a Game 7 to its advantage. San Jose has a combined 31 games of experience in a seventh game, while the Kings have 15 games among the players expected to dress.
“You can reference your past, your emotions, what you felt before the game,” McLellan said. “If you felt good and played well in that Game 7, you try and repeat the process,” he said.
“I’m not too sure that’s going to have a big effect on the outcome of the game. What we did two years ago in Game 7, what they did six years ago in Game 7, what individuals did – I don’t know. The 40 players that dress will decide it this year. Whoever plays a better game is going to have a chance to move on. It’s as simple as that.”
What is more important than career experience, according to the head coach, is what happened the last time the Sharks visited the Staples Center. On Thursday in Game 5, San Jose played perhaps its worst game of the postseason in a 3-0 loss to a much more energized and effective Kings team.
Los Angeles will try and repeat that performance, while San Jose will have to match the Kings’ anticipated aggressiveness if it wants to make its third Western Conference finals appearance in four seasons.
“I think that Game 5 can help us in Game 7,” McLellan said. “That’s the experience to draw on. We didn’t play well, they had some things going for them. That experience that we went through, and that failure, if we draw on anything, that’s what I’d like us to draw upon.”
Boyle said: “Both teams have shown at times that they have been the better team,” he said. “It comes down to one game. It’s just exciting. As far as experience and stuff, I throw it out the window. We’ll see.”