Absolutely, positively without question. Tomorrow night will be the last NHL hockey game of the 2008-09 season. Isn’t it marvelous when one of these “series” sports gets a game with the life and death feel of the Super Bowl or NCAA championship game. One and done for both teams, everything is on the line. The Penguins and the Red Wings get to face off in that kind of atmosphere and lucky us, we get to watch. Unlike basketball which has only had 4 game sevens in the Finals since 1980, hockey has now treated us to five in the past eight alone.
As we prepare to watch, there are a few questions that will be posed in tomorrow’s game.
Will Sidney Crosby begin to take over the league in the way that’s been predicted for him since youth or will the Red Wings continue their run as the dominant franchise of the last 15 years?
Will the Red Wings close out a series where the home team has won every game or can Pittsburgh steal the most important game of all in Joe Louis Arena?
Will the Red Wings Marian Hossa finally contribute in Game 7 or will he have his worst playoff series ever and see his old team skate off with the Cup without him?
In the biggest game of his career, will Marc Andre Fleury live up to his status as the number one overall pick in the 2003 draft or will perennially underrated (especially by me) Chris Osgood take home his third Stanley Cup as a starting goaltender.
With all their injuries and age, will the Red Wings finally act tired or will the young guns of Pittsburgh wilt under the glare of a Game 7.
It’s going to be lots of fun, and even if you aren’t a hockey fan you should check it out. Any fan of sports competition should be appreciative of two extremely talented teams battling in a one night only show for their sports top prize.
I went with Pittsburgh in 6 before the series. I’m going to stick with the upstarts to get it done, just one game later than I thought.
To whet your appetite here is a short summary of the most recent Stanley Cup Final Game 7’s.
2006 Edmonton Oilers at Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes won the series with a 3-1 victory over the 8th seeded Oilers. Carolina took a 2-0 lead into the third period before Fernando Pisani inched Edmonton closer. Justin Williams scored an empty netter with less than a minute to ice it.
2004 Calgary Flames at Tampa Bay Lightning
Ruslan Fedotenko, who’s now on Pittsburgh, scored two goals to give Tampa the lead. Craig Conroy scored early in the third to pull Calgary within one. The Flames peppered goalie Nikolai Khabibulin for the rest of the game and he came up large; protecting the Lightning’s 2-1 lead until the final buzzer.
2003 Anaheim Mighty Ducks at New Jersey Devils
Mike Babcock coached Anaheim back then, and just like this years series the home team won each of the first six games. The Devils were able to satisfy the home fans and bring home the Cup by continuing the home ice advantage in Game 7 with a 3-0 thrashing. The Ducks were never really in the game. Jeff Friesan scored two of the goals against his former team, but Anaheim goalie Jean Sebastien Giguere was still awarded the Conn Smythe trophy. He was outplayed by Marty Brodeur in this game though.
2001 New Jersey Devils at Colorado Avalanche
The defending Cup champion Devils had a chance to close out the series in Game 6 at home. They flubbed that and then had to travel to Denver for Game 7 as the Avalanche tried to win the Cup for Ray Bourque. The Avalanche took a 3-0 lead on two goals by Alex Tanguay and one by Joe Sakic. The Devils got one back in the second, but the third period went scoreless and Colorado completed the mission with a 3-1 win. Patrick Roy won his third and last Conn Smythe trophy.
1994 Vancouver Canucks vs. New York Rangers
This was my favorite game 7 of the bunch. The pressure of 54 years of futility was thick at Madison Square Garden that night as the Rangers were forced into a Game 7 after squandering a 3-1 series lead. Mark Messier had led the team to this point and after Trevor Linden scored early in the second period to pull Vancouver to within one, he answered the call. Messier scored what turned out to be the Cup winner late in the second. Linden closed Vancouver to within one again in the third, but Vancouver could get no closer despite 3 faceoffs in New York’s end in the final minute.
1987 Philadelphia Flyers at Edmonton Oilers
The Flyers took the Edmonton dynasty to the limit in this series, but at home the Oilers sealed the deal with a 3-1 win. Philadelphia took the early lead on a power play 1 minute into the game. Mark Messier tied it up a few minutes later and Jari Kurri gave Edmonton the lead midway through the second. Glenn Anderson added an insurance goal and Messier, Gretsky, Kurri, Coffey, Fuhr, etc. had their third title.
All right, there is your hype. Now enjoy the game.