Today, the Dallas Stars players will wake up in their beds. They'll have their usual breakfast, then get in their cars and drive to the American Airlines Center like any other game day. A morning skate, a game day nap, a chicken and pasta lunch, and then Shania in the locker room. Everything in the comfort of their home rink, their home town.
This is why teams fight so hard to reach the top of the standings -- the promise of a home ice advantage when you need it. And today, the Stars will need every kind of extra motivation or comfort they can get. Because the stakes have never been higher for this group than they are today, as they look upon a direct future of golf courses or Western Conference Finals games.
The future they want is there for the taking. Win and move on; lose and go home.
Coming off a big series-tying win in Game 6 on the road, the Stars should have plenty of confidence and swagger in their game. Kari Lehtonen won an elimination game; the offense perforated Brian Elliott and proved that he was human; they've got home ice in front of their fans today. Advantage Dallas, right?
Maybe. Maybe not. The Blues have their own set of motivations for tonight. The desire to put to rest the "choker" label they've earned in getting bounced early the last few seasons, a more experienced team that's been here before, and a coach that has a better Game 7 record than Dallas (whose head coach hasn't won a Game 7 in his career).
One thing is for certain about tonight's game. There will be nerves. There will be excitement and anxiety, ups and downs. But the minute the puck drops, the training, the sacrifices, the build up of the year comes down to this, and it comes down to executing what you've done all season, all career, all life long. Concentrate on the basics, execute them well, and let the cards fall where they may.
We'll be counting down the hours, and you can bet that the players will be too. We'll go about our normal day, get in our cars and make the drive to the American Airlines Center. We'll put on our Victory Green and nod knowingly at every Stars fan we pass today. Everything in the comfort of our home rink, our home town.
As the puck drops, we'll scream loudly and occasionally remind ourselves to breathe.
The future is coming. What will it bring?