Question of the Week: Which game in a seven game series is most important?

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 20: Tampa Bay Lightning fans give their support prior to the start of the action against Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the St. Pete Times Forum on April 20, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

The Raw Charge "Question of the Week" is a weekly feature that poses a question to Raw Charge writers and sometimes other writers within the Boltosphere, discussing the ins and outs of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Boiling the Stanley Cup Playoffs down to "the first team to 16 wins gets the Cup" makes the whole thing seem a lot easier than it is. It's a brutal, grueling, king-of-the-mountain tournament that rewards the team that successfully navigates four rounds of progressively more difficult best-of-seven series. Our question this week is about navigating those series. Specifically which game, if any, of a seven game series holds more significance than others. Personally, I'd say game 2; afterwards, there's either a 1-1 tie or somebody's got a 2-game advantage (or deficit, depending what side of it you're on) and that's a huge disparity in a short series. Plus if it's 1-1, the lower seed has "stolen" home ice.

So the question of the week is: Of the seven games in a seven game playoff series, which game is most important to win? Obviously, any elimination game is ultimately THE most important, but is there another game prior to elimination scenarios that is crucial, in terms of positioning, setting tones and sending messaages? Or is all that stuff acedemic and are elimination games the only ones that matter?

Cassie McClellan - Staff

I would say Game 3 is the most important to win. If you're down 2-0, then you need a win to stay in it. If you're up 2-0, then you need a win to pretty much clinch it. If you're tied 1-1, then you need a win to pull ahead in the series. It's not so difficult to come back from a 2-1 game deficit, not too hard to pull ahead with a 2-1 series lead, and you've pretty much wrapped it up if you're ahead in the series 3-0 since almost no one can win four playoff games in a row. Which is why I think Game 3 is probably the most pivotal game of any seven-game playoff series.

John Fontana - Staff

I really like this question and it's so tough to choose.  I was thinking Game 4, partly because of the potential elimination status as well as the potential sweep status.

It also stands as the game that tells the viewers that "we will not go quietly" if the underdog team wins this game while trailing in the series. 

Statistically, you can probably find out the importance of winning each game in a series (x number of times, a team winning game X has gone on to win a playoff series), but I'm just sticking with opinion here.

Matt Amos - Staff / Don't Trade Vinny

This is a two-part answer.  It all depends on if your team has home-ice advantage or not. 

For the home-ice team, the very first game of the series is the most important.  Set the tone, show the other team they can't win in your house.  Control the series. 

Which is a perfect segue into the road team.  They must win one of the first two games on the road.  That nullifies the home-ice advantage and allows them to just "hold serve" at home for a win in six games.

Dani Toth - Staff / Lightning Hockey Blog

I should have answered this before we got too far into the series, but my original answer would have been Game 3 in Tampa.

The reason being that Game 3 was the first home for the Bolts in the series and if the Pens had been up 2-0, it would have been the game they would have needed to come back from. Since the series equal coming into Game 3, it's possible that the win that the Pens had will be the one that tips the series in their favour or if in the end the Lightning win, maybe it will be the loss that make them work harder.

Nolan Whyte - Staff / Frozen Sheets Hockey

If you win the series, it was the wins that meant the most.
If you lose, it was the losses.
 
What can I say? Every game is important, and every series is different. Try to split the away games, try to win at home, but if the only thing that matters is advancing, then you just need to win all the games. Or at least more than the other guy in a short time.
 
"...in this CRUCIAL Game Two..."
 
It's the playoffs. Everything is a cliche, and yes, every game is crucial.

If the players follow the cliches, then it's all one game at a time, and every game is a must-win.
 
If I could hang a poster in the dressing room, it would say "Every Game Is Game Seven."
 
Now get out there and block a shot with your face.

Last week's Question of the Week: Did the Tampa Bay Lightning live up to your preseason expectations?

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