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Justin Williams’ ‘Calmness’ Can Serve the Capitals Well in Game 7

The Capitals know Williams’ legendary Game 7 performances will continue into the matchup against the Penguins

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Williams stood at the end of the Capitals’ locker room at Kettler, waiting for the media to gather in front of him. His facial expression and demeanor could be described as a disgruntled teenage cashier waiting for their shift to end so they could go hang out with friends.

Everyone wanted to hear what Mr. Game 7 had to say. After all, it’s a nickname Williams earned with his consistent standout performances. In seven career Game 7s, Williams has seven goals and seven assists, with a perfect 7-0 record.

It’s a moniker Williams clearly can’t stand. To him, Game 7 performances are just apart of the job, and Williams, always one to strive to put in the best work possible, just wants to hit the ice so he can help out the team’s main cause.

“It’s going to be a fight,” Williams said of the upcoming Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. “I can tell you one thing, I’m going to give everything I have tonight and make sure I don’t let my teammates down, and everyone in this room is going to do the same. And we’ll be fine.”

Initially down three games to one in the series, the Capitals have clawed their way back to even it up in a must-win game at the Verizon Center. And while Williams’ production has cooled a bit against the Penguins—he’s recorded points in just two games this series with three total assists—guys around the team will be looking in Williams’ direction.

Trotz knows that many will lean on the three-time Stanley Cup winner as well, and he knows the 35-year-old can handle the moment.

“I don’t have any doubts about what Justin is going to bring,” Trotz said. “He’s going to bring his all, and his all is pretty good.”

One guy in particular that will listen to Williams, whether it be for guidance, confidence or reassurance, is T.J. Oshie. In 54 career playoff games, Oshie has never participated in a Game 7 before. He knows that he personally has to ramp up his play, and he also has confidence Williams will do the same.

“It’s going to be exciting to see,” Oshie said of Williams’ upcoming performance. “We all know the level of competitiveness he’s able to bring himself to. It’s almost a competitive calmness that a lot of us aren’t able to find. We’ll look for him as well as a lot of other guys tonight.”

That level of calmness could serve the Capitals well if it’s able to resonate within the locker room. Not only is it a Game 7, not only do the Capitals have to look past the narrative of the historical context of the Capitals’ franchise record of 4-10 in Game 7s or the Penguins 5-0 Game 7 record in away arenas, but they have to temper the excitement level of coming back from a 3-1 series deficit. The excitement level around the team is at an all-time high, but the Capitals obviously don’t want to head into this game too amped up.

That’s at least the mindset if you are a common person with little athlete ability and an even littler amount of an athletic mindset, and not a world-class professional athlete like a Washington Capital. According to Kevin Shattenkirk, the memory of Games 1 through 6 has been wiped clean. All that matters now is a single game.

“After we won last game, we parked the fact that we came back from 3-1,” Shattenkirk said. “It’s a one-game series now. This is sudden death. That’s all we can really focus on. What we take from Games 5 and 6 is that we played the right way. We saw that we had the right formula and that it worked, and that’s all we can really worry about. We can’t think to ourselves that because those two games went in our favor that tonight’s going to automatically do that.”

Replicating the performances in Game 5 and 6 will be a difficult task with the Penguins quite literally fighting to save their 2016-17 season, but if the Capitals do manage to do just that, they’ll have the odds in their favor.

In Game 5, the Capitals took 14 more shot attempts than the Penguins managed, and 10 more shots on goal. Game 6 was equally lopsided, with the Capitals taking 13 more shot attempts and eight more shots shots on goal, holding the Penguins to just nine shots through the first two periods. In total on the series, Washington has taken 131 more shot attempts than the Penguins and have managed to put 67 more shots on goal.

But none of that matters in Game 7. With both teams in the same boat, both teams looking to extend their season and with both teams’ Stanley Cup hopes on the line, the game essentially becomes a coin flip.

And while that weighs heavily on virtually everyone that is invested in both teams’ nerves, that’s what makes it fun.

It’s what these guys have dreamed of.

“It’s just something about Game 7,” Oshie said. “You grow up hearing about it, you dream about scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 7. That’s what, as a hockey player, you grow up dreaming about. I’m excited for the challenge. It’s going to be fun to go out there.”