A high-stakes game for Stanley
Is there really anything else that needs to be said?
"I've been exactly in this situation before," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who lost a Game 7 in the 2003 finals while coaching Anaheim -- ironically with Penguins coach Dan Bylsma as a Ducks player. "In saying all that, we're going to have two really excited teams. We're going to have a great crowd here. For us, in Detroit and in Michigan, this has been an unbelievable run for our city and for our state just because of the economy here and for the people. It's been absolutely fantastic.
"Now we've got to finish it off. Should be fun."
"Absolutely, there's no reason why we shouldn't be," Wings veteran Kris Draper said of his team being excited. "You know, we're in a one-game, winner-takes-all. We're playing it in our building. We're going to use everything we can in Detroit in Joe Louis to our advantage, and be ready to go, drop of the puck."
It should be a fun night. The Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins play one more game Friday night (8 p.m. EDT) with the winner taking home the Stanley Cup -- and the loser a summer of regrets.
So, who has the edge? The Red Wings, perfect on home ice in the finals, outscoring the Penguins 11-2 in the process? Or the Penguins, riding the momentum of a Game 6 win?
"We're going to find out," Babcock said. "I don't know the answer to that. I'm a big believer when you don't have experience, you say it's overrated. When you do, you understand how important it is, and it's always nice to be through something before so you know what to expect."
Neither does Bylsma.
"We faced an elimination game in Game 6," Bylsma said. "And the same message about going out to win the game, and playing our game, and playing on our toes the way we've played to get here, that make us a good team, that is the way we need to play.
"Sitting back, you know, playing a chess match and feeling each other out, you see that happen occasionally in elimination games or Game 7 situations," Bylsma said. "You got to go out, play aggressively, play our style, execute the way we play and try to take the play to the on opposition, and try to get lots of shots and pucks to that net and capitalize.
"That's the way we're going to talk about approaching the game, on our toes, aggressive, playing our style."
Obviously, the stage doesn't get much bigger. And on the eve of a Game 7 with Stanley in the balance, emotions span the gamut from excitement, as most players willingly talk about, to dread, an emotion that is closeted in the deep recesses of the mind.
"Playing in a Game 7 for the Stanley Cup finals is new to all of us," said Draper, who is trying for a fifth Stanley Cup with Detroit. "You know, I've never done it before. We've played in some big games, no doubt. We've played in some games where we've had opportunities to close teams out. But never have I been in a situation like this in a Game 7 where so much is on the line. And I'm excited about it.
"It's the greatest thing that an athlete can ask for, having this opportunity. … It's like I said, to play the greatest game that you've been able to play in your career, to be able to become Stanley Cup champion."
So, no fear, Kris?
"I think we've just got to just accept where we're at," he said. "Just embrace it, really. How can you not? With everything that we've done since training camp -- the training camp, all the road trips, the off-site workouts, everything that we've done. Now we're in a Game 7 with an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup.
"We're just going to break it down and simplify things. Really, just go out. I can't say enough about how important our start has to be. That is something that we'll continue to talk about right up until the drop of the puck.
"This is great to have a Game 7 in our building with our fans and knowing that we have that opportunity to win the Stanley Cup Friday night is something that we're all excited about. We can do everything we can to make sure that we get the job done."
Down the hallway, the Penguins are thinking along the same lines. The Pens staved off elimination with a 2-1 win in Game 6 and despite having lost all three games so far in Detroit, they know they are in it right to the end.
"It's pretty common for our team to talk about the upcoming game, where we're at and what the next game is about, where our mindset needs to be," Bylsma said. "And I think at different times different guys have stood up and offered words of advice on what they think. You know, Ruslan (Fedotenko) was one that started the playoffs and Billy Guerin, lot of guys have been guys that stepped up and said certain things at the right time and offered their expertise or their experiences. Saying 'Hey, this is what we need to focus on, or this happens in playoffs. You lose a game, you've got to rebound.'
"You know, I wouldn't be surprised to see Ruslan say a few words just 'Shoot the puck on net,' because that's what he did in that Game 7 when he got those two big goals. He was able to get the game-winner in Game 7 for Tampa. And that's what it's going to take."
Yes, Fedotenko is the expert when it comes to being a Game 7 hero with Stanley on the line. His two goals in 2004 propelled the Tampa Bay Lightning past the Calgary Flames.
"It's a great feeling to be back in a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals," Fedotenko said. "You can't find a truer test, where you're either the winner or the loser."
Author: Phil Coffey | NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director