Yes, this could be a ‘franchise-defining game’ for the Penguins

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“Dan, there’s been talk about this game being a franchise-defining game. Do you think about that at all?”

That was one of the questions Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma got this morning ahead of his Penguins’ Game 7 versus the New York Rangers.

Predictably, Bylsma said he doesn’t think about it — “Not really, no I don’t” — and that he’s not looking at a “bigger picture” than simply a game to advance to the conference finals.

And that may be true for him, since it’s important to stay focused on the task at hand, not the possible ramifications, which Bylsma can’t control anyway.

But make no mistake, this could be a franchise-defining game for the Penguins, because Game 7’s have a way of being exactly that.

Consider: What if the Bruins had lost Game 7 to the Canadiens in 2011. Instead of winning in overtime and going on to hoist their first Stanley Cup since 1972, it’s likely coach Claude Julien would’ve been fired. Remember, the B’s were only a year removed from choking on a 3-0 lead versus the Flyers.

And what if Washington had won Game 7 versus Montreal in 2010? Instead of a devastating first-round exit that made the Capitals rethink the run-and-gun style that made them the most exciting team in the NHL, maybe they’d have runned and gunned their way to a championship that year. We’ll never know, will we. But that was a good team. Not so much anymore.

Now imagine if the Maple Leafs hadn’t blown Game 7 versus the Bruins last year. And if the Canucks had won Game 7 versus the Bruins in 2011. Talk about franchise-defining games for Toronto and Vancouver, the latter of which is still dealing with the ramifications three years later.

Granted, it’s possible the Penguins win tonight and flame out in the conference finals, just like they did last year. In that case, tonight’s game will be a footnote.

But if they win and go on to the Cup Final?

Defining game.

Or a loss followed by the firing of Bylsma, which surely wouldn’t be the only big change?

Definitely a defining game.

“You’ve got to enjoy this moment,” said Bylsma. “This is what we all play for.

“You’ve got to get excited about it. It’s not just the overbearing, overriding sense that a bounce here, or a missed play here, or whatever, is going to decide this game. You’ve got to enjoy it, got to get ready for this. Again, this is what you all play for.

“You don’t remember Game 51. We’re going to all remember this Game 7.”