Fox Sports NHL analyst Tyson Nash is six years into his broadcasting career, but before that, he played in the NHL from the late-90s to the mid-2000s, suiting up for the Blues and Coyotes.
He’s also played in a Game 7.
“Oh, my goodness, there’s nothing like it, I can tell you that,” Nash said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “You sure find out a lot about yourself as a person, as a player. Do you rise to the occasion or do you fold your tent? There’s so much pressure, but I’ll tell you what: If you can’t get up for a Game 7, you better check for a heartbeat because that’s what it’s all about as a hockey player.”
The NHL is giving us two Game 7s this weekend: Lightning/Rangers on Friday and Blackhawks/Ducks on Saturday. Four great teams, two great games. At this point, it’s not necessarily about which teams are better than the others; it’s about which teams can keep their emotions in check and not get rattled on the big stage.
“That’s a great point,” Nash said. “You can definitely get overexcite (and) play with too much energy. All of a sudden, you’re running around, you’re running out of position – especially in today’s NHL, with just how structured it is, it’s almost like a chess match out there, so you got to play with controlled emotion. You got to play with emotion, you got to enjoy it, you got to feed off the crowd, the environment, just the energy in the building from the fans as well. But you got to make sure you stay razor-focused on the task at hand – and that’s doing what you’ve done to get there, playing no differently. You don’t want to take bad penalties, you don’t want to be the player that makes that mistake to cost your team. That’s for sure.”
The Rangers and Ducks will host the respective Game 7s, but many people feel home-ice advantage doesn’t matter in the playoffs, especially in do-or-die situations. Nash doesn’t quite buy that.
“I think it definitely (is) an advantage,” he said. “But sometimes, obviously it didn’t help Tampa trying to close out that series at home (Tuesday). They got spanked the other night against the Rangers.”
You can say that again. Tampa lost 7-3.
“(Playing at home) can be a good thing if you feed off it in the right way, and it can be a bad thing, again, if you start running around (and) you get too amped up for it,” Nash said. “Playing on the road sometimes, you get away from all the distractions and you’re just focused on the task at hand. You’re not worried about tickets, you’re not worried about family. You’re just worried about playing the game. That can be a distraction, I’m telling you.”
The Rangers – Henrik Lundqvist, especially – sure seem to have this whole elimination game thing down. New York is 15-3 in its last 18 elimination games, and Lundqvist has won six Game 7s, which is tied with Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur for most all time.
Why is Lundqvist so great between the pipes in these scenarios?
“He’s a pressure player,” Nash said. “He’s one of those guys that, as I talked about, that rises to that next level that a lot of players just don’t have. The bigger the game, the better Lundqvist plays. There’s a lot of guys on that team – there’s a few guys that (will be) in (this) situation for the first time. You’re going to see how they do. This is a guy, he’s a world-class goaltender, and when the chips are down – when you need a big game out of him – that’s when he comes through. We’ve seen that through the playoffs this year – all the one-goal games the Rangers have been in, just so much adversity this team’s faced, the comebacks, being down 3-1 in the one series (against Washington) and bouncing back and again being down in this series to take it to a Game 7. So you’ve got to love the Rangers. I’ve had them from day one like a lot of people, but I’m picking them to get to the Finals.”