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Most important
Game 7 may very well be the most important Sharks game ever
5/27/13 - By Mike Lee -

Tuesday night's contest is a big game for the San Jose Sharks. In fact, it just might be the biggest game in the team's history. The Sharks have won Game 7's before. They've even won conference semi-final series before as well. But that's where the Sharks legacy ends. The Sharks have played in the Western Conference Finals three times in their history, falling to the Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks. On Tuesday night, they will either extend their run to the Stanley Cup Finals, or once again become a stepping stone for another team's glory.

If the Sharks can overcome the Kings home ice advantage on Tuesday night, they will square off against the Blackhawks or the Detroit Red Wings in the Conference Finals. With Chicago and Detroit playing in their own Game 7 later this week, no team has the advantage of rest. Everyone has had to extend themselves to advance, which means that the Sharks don't have the disadvantage of having to play a rested opponent, which was the case in 2011, after they were forced to play a 6-game series in the quarter finals and a 7 game series in the semi-finals.

It's no secret that the Sharks would prefer to play the Red Wings. Chicago has had their number the last two seasons, and they were built to beat the Red Wings. That's all dependent however on how they deal with the Kings in Tuesday night.

To do that, they'll need to get out to a good start. The team that's scored first has won every game between the two teams this season, playoffs and regular season. They can't sit back and try to weather the storm in the opening 20 minutes like they did in Game 5. The Kings took it to them and ended up walking away with a 3-0 victory.

The Sharks need to turn the tables on this series and be the first team to win on the road, or it's curtains for San Jose. Get through this round and the Sharks will be on an even playing field. If Detroit makes it past Chicago, San Jose will even have home ice advantage for the Conference Finals.

Knocking off the defending Stanley Cup Champion also has some cache to it. Win on Tuesday and they'll have done that. Win on Tuesday and they actually get an extra day's rest, because Detroit and Chicago battle it out on Wednesday.

The Kings are expecting to win, which is also a big advantage for San Jose. If they can come out swinging, and punch them in the mouth, they would disrupt what more than a few in the Kings lineup likely expect. Hopefully that's the youthful exuberance of the Kings speaking.

Game 7 experience isn't exactly a commodity in Los Angeles. That's driven by the fact that the Kings are a relatively young team and the fact that Los Angeles hasn't exactly been a playoff mainstay in the West. San Jose on the other had has tons of Game 7 credentials. Hopefully that experience will pay dividends for San Jose.

They do however, know how to win. They provide that last year. I've been saying all year that the Sharks find success when they don't let up. Tuesday night will be the biggest test of that philosophy. Take their foot of the gas and the Kings will exploit them.

The Sharks need 60 minutes of unadulterated fire belly hockey. No taking shifts off. No assuming someone else will do the job.

After all, it's only the most important game in franchise history.

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