Brent Seabrook said what he's supposed to say in a situation like this.
"It's just a normal game," the Blackhawks defenseman said a little less than eight hours before Wednesday night's Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings. "You've got to treat it like a normal game."
Yeah. Good luck with that.
While the Hawks have faced elimination in each of their last two games, there's nothing quite like a Game 7. The United Center will be rocking, the world will be watching, and the excitement level will keep rising throughout the day. Even the players feel that.
"It's really the best time of year," Patrick Kane said. "This is the biggest game this time of year -- Game 7, second round, no other games on TV and no other games pretty much around the world. It's really exciting to be a hockey player in a game like this."
The trick is to use that excitement and the hot crowd to fuel a fast start, while reining in the emotions that even the most experienced professional athlete feels in such a pressure-packed environment.
"It's really easy to get excited and ready for this one, but at the same time you don't want to make mistakes and put too much pressure on yourself," Kane said. "It's tough to say you want to take it as any other game, because it's not, but just go out there and play our game, play the way we have the last two, and we should be successful."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said his team has had the right mind-set since falling behind 3-1 in the series.
"Watching our group out here today and yesterday, I think we haven't changed at all the last four or five days," he said. "It's been consistent. We're excited, we're looking forward to it, and you've got to commend them on their approach."
Both teams said that the start would be key -- for the Hawks, to keep the momentum and rev up the crowd, and for the Wings, to quiet the crowd and put the pressure back on the Hawks to rally yet again. Mike Babcock was asked if he was just hoping to "survive" the first 10 minutes, and the Red Wings coach scoffed.
"No, that's not the plan at all," Babcock said. "I thought that's what we did in our building [in Game 6]. We didn't win a faceoff in the first 10 minutes. All the Game 7s I've ever been involved in, the start is so critical."
That said, Babcock didn't want his players feeling the pressure of the situation, only the excitement.
"We talk about Game 7 like it's something to avoid," he said. "It's as much fun as you can have in hockey. It's about having fun. When you do what you're supposed to do and you're organized and you trust your teammates and you trust your structure -- let's play."
Detroit has far more experience in dealing with the emotions of a Game 7 than the Hawks do. Only Marian Hossa (six) and Michal Handzus (four) have played in more than one Game 7 among the Hawks active players. Meanwhile, nine Red Wings who'll likely be dressing tonight have played in at least four.
Most of the Hawks' only experience came in 2011, when they rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to force a Game 7 in Vancouver. The Hawks lost 2-1 in overtime.
"A lot of guys were in here against Vancouver when we lost in Game 7, when we fought back from 3-0, and that's one of those things we're going to draw off tonight," Seabrook said. "A lot of guys bring their own experiences into this kind of game, but we're looking forward to getting off to a start and making some new memories tonight."