It's finally here. After yet another extra day break in-between games, the final National Hockey League game is tonight with everything on the line. Tomorrow, there will be celebrations in one city and sorrow in another. Tomorrow, a dynasty could be in the making or a dynasty could be adding to its legacy.
Mark Spector from Sportsnet thinks the Red Wings' basketful of experience should give them the edge tonight:
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There is a certain currency the Detroit Red Wings have been stowing away for a Game 7 just like this one. A rainy day account stocked full of experience, and, sorry Pittsburgh, but it's like shopping alongside Paris Hilton.
There isn't a team in hockey that can spend with them.
Can anyone else say they've won four of the last 11 Stanley Cups awarded? Do the Pittsburgh Penguins' consecutive finals come close to having been in six of the past 14 Cup finals? Eight of the past 14 Western Conference finals?
Crosby will almost certainly have a good amount to say about how things turn out in Game 7 and whether or not he has that same sinking feeling again. To be kind, Crosby has struggled in Detroit in both Stanley Cup finals.
On the flip side, Crosby has proved during this year's post-season he is a big-game player who can respond positively when his team needs him most. He was very good in Game 7 against the Washington Capitals and his only goal of this series so far turned out to be the game-winner in Game 3 that got the Penguins back in the series.
But there must be pressure on Crosby to have a big game. It's all well and good that Evgeni Malkin is a superstar having a superstar run in the playoffs, but Crosby is the face of the franchise. Should he and the Penguins manage to upset the Red Wings in Game 7, Crosby would join a pantheon of past Pittsburgh champions that includes Mario Lemieux, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Greene and a contemporary in Ben Roethlisberger.
It won't be easy for Pittsburgh, he said. Like the Penguins, who lost in the Finals to Detroit last season, the Oilers lost the Cup to the Islanders in 1982-83 before winning it next season.
"Detroit is an amazing team, an amazing organization, one that knows how to win and has won before," said Messier, who won five Cups with the Oilers and another with the New York Rangers. "Instead of getting older and banged up, they seem to be getting young and stronger, all the while staying on top.
"Pittsburgh is running into a team that does not want to relinquish the title. The only way they are going to get it is by taking it away. They are not going to give it to them."
Finally, as comfortable as Babcock believes his players are at Joe Louis Arena, Pittsburgh goalie Marc-André Fleury has been in distress in the Detroit rink. He surrendered a couple of goals in the series opener that were the result of caroms off the lively end boards at the Joe Louis Arena. When the puck is bounding off the boards as fast as the shots are fired, it is often difficult for butterfly goalies to recover and get back into position.
Hall of Fame net minder Patrick Roy had difficulty in Detroit, too. Who can forget the 7-0 Detroit win in Game 7 that Roy and the Colorado Avalanche endured in the 2002 conference final?
And if Ozzie plays lights-out tonight, it is hard to imagine the Wings losing it. He has not surrendered more than one goal to the Penguins in the three home games -- and shut them out in Game 5. Marc-Andre Fleury never has played particularly well in Joe Louis Arena, and with the waves of talent the Wings can send down the ice -- especially with Pavel Datsyuk back in gear -- they are not likely to be blanked.
Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review tell us about a dream Evgeni Malkin had:
A man of few comments throughout the Stanley Cup Final, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin acknowledged Thursday that one picture would be worth a thousand words.
"I think about it a lot, especially these last (two) weeks," he said, smiling before finishing the sentence. "It's my dream. Me and Sid, just like that."
Speaking of mysticism, Friend of Puck Daddy Ben Schmitt visited a psychic for the Detroit Free Press (with video) and discovered bad news for the Penguins:
Morgan's crystal ball revealed a lot of fights, and a long ride home for Penguins fans. One of Stafford's cards turned up a Three of Swords, a heart with three swords piercing it.
What does that mean?
"Heartbreak for Pittsburgh," she said.
Stafford's reading showed a 4-2 win for the Red Wings. "I'm a fan so I'm going to try and stay impartial," Stafford said.
Morgan didn't have a final score but she foresaw a one- or two-goal victory by the Wings after several score changes. "There's an awful lot of red flying around here," she said of her crystal ball. "I would say there's going to be a very tight, very close game. I feel the Red Wings are going to win."
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN points out that both teams have similar Game 7 experience, but that the Red Wings have been involved in more games with higher stakes:
In the end, Red Wings' culture could come into play Friday night. They may not have played in a Game 7 of the Cup finals, but they've played a lot of big games over the past 12 seasons. They've learned a lot from previous leaders, such as Steve Yzerman, Igor Larionov and Brendan Shanahan.
While the Penguins of this generation are beginning their own legacy of excellence under Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Wings have maintained a continuous link from the 1990s teams to the 21st Century teams without missing a beat. That culture of winning is bred into the players wearing red and white.
Bob Duff of Canwest News Service via National Post thinks that if Pittsburgh should win, it's up to Sidney Crosby to make an appearance and lead the way:
Truth be told, the Penguins have arrived at this point, in the final, without much in the way of offensive contribution from Sid The Kid.
Through six games, he's accounted for one goal and a pair of assists, all of the points coming in wins at Pittsburgh in Games 3 and 4. That's one fewer goal than Detroit rookie centre Justin Abdelkader, who hasn't played the past three games.
In six playoff games at the JLA during the past two final series, Crosby has accounted for just two assists.
He needs to step it up and what better time than the present?
With the season on the line.
Finally, Francis X. Donnelly of the Detroit News underscores what this Cup run has meant to the city of Detroit:
Unemployed for six months, the divorced Eastpointe artist has found respite from an unlikely source for a nonhockey fan -- Red Wings games.
For a few blessed hours tonight, Boylan, 46, will stop fretting about stretching his meager reserves. His only concern will be Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
"It keeps me from driving myself crazy," he said. "It's definitely a load off."
This is becoming old hat for the Wings. During an 11-year run producing four Stanley Cups, the team has continually helped Metro Detroit temporarily forget the economic tsunami about it.
This year's finals, coming during the bankruptcy of General Motors Corp., may be the most important one yet, fans said. Whether the team wins or loses tonight, it has been a beautiful distraction. "You could obsess over it," Sylvia Mitchell, 54, of Sterling Heights said about the economy. "This gives you something else to obsess about."
Game 7 live blog tonight at 7:45 p.m. EST here on Puck Daddy.