The Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins was destined to go to Game 7. This tightly contested matchup has already made NHL history as the only series in which the first six games were decided by only one goal. Game 7 should be no different.
An intense game such as this will cause players to either crumble under the pressure or be forged into something brilliant, their actions changing the course of two franchises with one single moment in time.
So which player for the Washington Capitals will shine in such a moment and write his name into the hockey history books? Carve his name into Stanley Cup stone? Forever be known as a playoff hero?
In honor of Game 7, here are seven likely heroes for the Washington Capitals as they attempt to dethrone the reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
This is why Joel Ward joined the Washington Capitals.
Last season, the Toronto native was a role player with the Nashville Predators before taking the Stanley Cup Playoffs by storm, scoring seven goals in 12 games, as he helped his team win their first playoff series in franchise history. Ward parlayed that clutch performance into a sizable free agent contract with the Capitals. But he was a disappointment in the regular season.
This is Ward's time to make up for that poor performance and show that last year's postseason was not a fluke. He has already played well in this series, his hard work paying off to create a few scoring chances. Look for Joel Ward to finally cash in on Wednesday night.
Mike Green has played well since his return late in the regular season from nagging injuries.
And in Game 6 on Sunday, he finally found his scoring touch.
With the last—and most deadly—part of his game back in working order, the swift-skating defenseman will finally feel comfortable and confident joining the Washington offense. And if this series again goes into overtime, expect to hear from the man once known as "Game Over Green."
Troy Brouwer is one of only two players on the Washington Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, and he has already had a great series. He scored the Caps' first goal of the playoffs to spark the Game 2 victory, and his sneaky wrist shot in Game 5 pushed the Bruins to the brink.
But even if he doesn't score another goal, Brouwer can still have a huge impact. He has been one of the team's best penalty killers all series, as he and his mates have stifled the Bruins power play to help keep the series deadlocked.
Rest assured, Troy Brouwer will change the outcome of this final game in the Capitals favor, one way or another.
Alex Ovechkin was a physical force from the outset of this series. As the series has worn on, he has become an offensive force. He scored in Game 3 as well as Game 6, and he has put constant pressure on the Bruins defense.
Perhaps Ovechkin's greatest ability translates perfectly into the playoffs. Alex has the knack for being denied all game long until finally breaking through at the crucial moment. Such a moment would propel his team to victory.
Braden Holtby has been one of the biggest stories of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has gone toe-to-toe with the reigning Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy winner and, in many respects, has played better than Tim Thomas. Now the two have one more showdown.
Holtby has already won twice in Boston during this series, so the atmosphere won't rattle him. He has even shown the ability to rebound from a poor performance. His 44-save Game 4 masterpiece came on the heels of a Game 3 loss in which he surrendered four goals. That is once again the backdrop, as the Bruins pierced him for four in Game 6, including the OT winner.
Expect the Saskatchewan native to shake off that poor outing and have his greatest performance to date.
John Carlson is already a hero in this series, having effectively shutdown the formidable Milan Lucic. Expect his blue line heroics to continue in Game 7.
But the Massachusetts native also has an offensive side to his game. His thunderous slap shot has tortured Tim Thomas throughout the series. John Carlson also knows a thing or two about winning a decisive game against an opponent defending its home ice.
Just ask the Canadian national team about the gold medal game of the 2010 World Junior Championships in Saskatoon.
Alexander Semin has been haunted by his postseason failings of the past, and he was perhaps the least likely to have a huge series for the Washington Capitals.
But the mercurial winger has done just that, shocking people with his defensive responsibility and his willingness to block shots. He can score goals, too.
Sasha already has three in the series, to lead his team. "Mister Wrister" should have one more left up his sleeve, but his greatest trick would be to make the Boston Bruins disappear.