WASHINGTON, DC – When the Washington Capitals signed Justin Williams as a free agent in July 2015, it was a seemingly perfect match. Here was a team that couldn’t win a Game 7, signing a player who never loses one.
Williams is 7-0 in Game 7s. He has seven goals and seven assists in those games. It’s earned him the moniker “Mr. Game 7,” which he’s not fond of, but he really doesn’t have a say in this because a guy who has 14 points and is 7-0 in Game 7s is pretty damn well “Mr. Game 7.”
But here’s the thing about being Mr. Game 7: Your team has to play in one to unlock your particular hockey magic. Last postseason, the Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in six games and then were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. No Game 7s for Justin Williams.
So on Wednesday night, at home against the Penguins, we’ll get to see the culmination of a two-year plan from GM Brian MacLellan to reverse the team’s playoff fortunes in series finales.
We’ll get to see Mr. Game 7, in a Game 7, for the Capitals.
“I don’t have any doubts what Justin is going to bring. He’s going to bring his all, and his all is pretty good,” said coach Barry Trotz.
Williams has nine points (3 goals, 9 assists) in 12 games for the Capitals this postseason, including three assists in this series against the Penguins.
What does it mean to him to play in an eighth Game 7?
“I just appreciate it. You appreciate the opportunity to be in this game and we certainly do down 3-1,” Williams said. “We’re going to relish it, we’re going to jump on it and, as I’ve been saying here, we’re going to try to dictate.”
Are there superstitions he follows?
“No, you’ve just got to enjoy why you’re here. This is not the apex, but this is pretty close. This is the stuff that you’re thinking of when you’re a kid. This is Game 7. This is do or die. This is win or go home,” he said.
Is he nervous?
“Being relaxed is something that’s obviously not going to happen. You’re going to be excited. You’re going to be nervous. The main thing is to use those butterflies as a positive and not being something that shies you away from success,” he said.
His teammates are well aware of his past exploits in a Game 7, playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes and Los Angeles Kings, with whom he won the Conn Smythe in 2014. Williams has three Stanley Cup championships, one with Carolina and two with the Kings.
“It’s going to be exciting to see,” said forward T.J. Oshie. “We all know the level of competitiveness he’s able to bring himself to, almost a competitive calmness that a lot of us aren’t able to find. We’ll look for him, along with a lot of other guys, to have big games to night.”
As good as Williams has been in Game 7 is how terrible the Capitals have been. They’re 4-10 in franchise history in Game 7s, including 3-7 on home ice. The Penguins are 3-0 in franchise history in Game 7 against the Capitals, including a 2009 victory that still makes the collective heart of Washington fans ache.
Justin Williams wasn’t here for any of those games. He was brought here to Washington to change the course of history, to be the difference in a winner-takes-all game.
And now, after the Capitals rallied from a 3-1 deficit to force a series final, Mr. Game 7 gets his shot at a Game 7.
“Our backs have been against the wall for two games and now theirs are too. It’s going to be a fight of will,” he said.
“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.”
So says Mr. Game 7, before Game 7.
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