NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins will probably lose Game 7

There are five stages of grief. Let’s get them out of the way now.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins
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Yes, the Pittsburgh Penguins will probably lose Game 7.

Look, do you want to deal with reality or do you want someone on a Pittsburgh-centric web site to sugarcoat things for you? Well, too bad. You’re getting the first thing.

Of course, the Penguins could win Game 7 but all signs point to heartache. The Capitals have won two straight and have looked in control. Home teams have won 97 of 166 Game 7s all time. Sidney Crosby is possibly playing with a debilitating brain injury. It’s become plainly obvious that Kris Letang’s absence is a problem.

But this is the Capitals, so they could always choke in cartoonish fashion.

If they don’t choke, what should you, the Penguins fan, want to take from this game? What would be your silver linings? When you’re going through the stages of grief, what will you use to cope?

Let me help you with your stages of grief.

1. Denial

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins
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This stage is crucial. Seeing the handshake line after a Capitals’ second-round win won’t seem real to anyone, never mind Penguins’ fans. The denial of what has happened will be hard to shake. Alex Ovechkin smiling at the end of a second-round series? There’s no way that can be real, right?

Just remember that without Letang, Matt Murray, Conor Sheary and most of Crosby, it took the Capitals seven games to extinguish the Penguins. And while the Capitals will get a makeover next season, the Penguins will bring back more key players, so this probably won’t happen again next season.

2. Anger

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The need to release your pent-up aggression will be overwhelming. Whatever you do, do not — I repeat, do not — throw your laptop through your television when Pierre McGuire is interviewing Braden Holtby after his 57-save performance. It will feel good for a short period of time, but you will regret it for weeks. Much like one of your town’s salads.

You can’t assign blame to anyone in the Penguins organization, as Mike Sullivan squeezed everything he could from a team decimated by injury, and Jim Rutherford did all he could to plug holes before the trade deadline. The stars pulled their weight, so you can’t tweet “kys” at them (you shouldn’t anyway).

My suggestion is to channel your anger into pillow screaming and/or drinking, then watching 2016 Penguins playoffs highlights on YouTube until you pass out. But no matter how bad things feel, don’t get a Pittsburgh salad.

3. Bargaining

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals
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In each stage, there is potential for embarrassing yourself. Just imagine a tweet that encapsulates the first two situations.

Denial: “No, no! The Penguins didn’t lose 5-1. The game isn’t over! It’s not!”

Anger: “Dear Alex Ovechkin, I’m coming to your home to kill you.”

At best, you’re opening yourself to becoming a viral sensation. At worst, you’re looking at jail time.

But when it comes to bargaining, you will he hard-pressed to top the Blackhawks fan that felt the team should get a do-over series after being swept by the Predators. If you find yourself on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook or just texting a friend, don’t offer the idea of the Penguins getting a second crack at the Capitals.

4. Depression

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins
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This is when it all hits you at once. It’s over. A season lost to injury. The opportunity to repeat, gone. Bad decisions spring from this stage more than any other. You may find yourself in a dark place that tricks you into thinking attending some Pirates games will cheer you up. Don’t give in! You’re stronger than that!

Treat this sadness the way Chandler got over his breakup with Kathy, when he went from sweatpants/strip club/picturing yourself with other women/wanting to have sex with all your friends. Hang out in your sweatpants as much as needed. Then go to the Penguins museum (or a strip club, whatever) and hang out there until you can picture yourself with other Penguins, then imagine yourself at a Penguins game next season. If imagining yourself doing more with certain players helps, by all means.

5. Acceptance

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You’ve done it. You’ve made it to the final stage. The Penguins are out of the playoffs and you’re OK with that. It was a fun season. Not as fun as last season, but fun. Now that you’re here, you have two options to complete the grieving process.

  1. You can cheer for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, because you’ve grown to respect the team. You know they’ve been through a lot and the idea of seeing that pain alleviated would bring you satisfaction. Plus, the idea of losing to the team that wins the Stanley Cup will confirm your belief that if the Penguins were just a little healthier, they could have raised the Cup this year.
  2. Or you can do the thing that’s way more fun and spend the next month rooting against the Capitals, because screw them. Do you want to be one of those losers on The Price Is Right that hugs the contestant that spun 85 cents on the big wheel after you had 75 cents? No! You want to root for that person to overbid on the showcase so you can laugh and laugh and laugh at their misfortune, because you’re petty and the only remaining joy you can extract from this year’s playoffs are through Ovechkin’s tears.

I’m not sure how healthy any of this is, but my medical expertise only extends to knowing that when you crash head-first into the boards less than a week after being diagnosed with a concussion, you should get that checked out.