Nothing left to say except 'let's play'
Share with others:
DETROIT -- The Penguins will offer no guarantees about winning Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
Doing that might make headlines, but it would not make sense.
Not when the team they will be facing tonight at 8:15 at Joe Louis Arena is as accomplished and talented, as deep and experienced, as the Detroit Red Wings are.
Not when there is so little, if anything, to be accomplished by doing so.
"I don't think it makes you look any smarter if we do win," defenseman Brooks Orpik said yesterday. "And, if you lose, you look like a complete idiot."
- Matchup: Penguins at Detroit Red Wings, 8:15 p.m. today, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit.
- TV/Radio: WPXI, WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Series: Tied, 3-3.
- Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Chris Osgood for Red Wings.
- Penguins: Playing first Game 7 in Cup final. ... Are 6-6 on road. ... C Evgeni Malkin leads playoffs in points (35), assists (21), power-play goals (7), power-play points (16), shots (101).
- Red Wings: Are 4-2 in Game 7 in Cup final, all before 1965. ... Nicklas Lidstrom leads all defensemen in playoffs with 15 points. ... RW Dan Cleary leads playoffs at plus-17.
- Hidden stat: Detroit G Chris Osgood has 5 career postseason assists, including one this series.
The Penguins and Red Wings have split the first six games of the series and, aside from the Penguins' self-immolation in a 5-0 loss during Game 5, have competed on fairly even terms.
Precedent, though, suggests that things should skew dramatically in Detroit's favor this evening.
Road teams, for example, are 2-12 in Game 7 during Cup finals, and the past 18 times an NHL final, NBA finals or World Series has gone to a seventh game, the home team has won.
The last away club to win one of those was the 1979 Pirates, who claimed a championship in Baltimore, and there is not much chance of Penguins coach Dan Bylsma sending Tim Foli or Bill Madlock over the boards tonight.
Of course, there is less chance of them taking statistics that suggest they should not even have bothered making their third trip to Detroit seriously.
"I don't pay much attention to history," defenseman Hal Gill said. "I never did in school and I'm not going to start now."
What he and his teammates plan to pay attention to, however, are the details of their game because when the Penguins execute efficiently, they can play with any opponent, in any setting.
"Every night, we know if we play the right way, we'll be fine," center Jordan Staal said.
Mind you, Game 7 of a Cup final is like no other in the sport, and it is easy to see how players -- no matter how experienced -- could be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event, of having their entire season distilled to, and defined by, one game.
The Penguins, though, insist they are not concerned about that possibility.
"Before Game 6, we were a little worried about that because we needed the win to even keep our season alive," defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "I think it was more of a danger in Game 6 than it is now. This is the scenario we wanted."
Forward Craig Adams, who won a Cup in Carolina when the Hurricanes beat Edmonton in a Game 7 three years ago, said that simply getting to this point should inoculate both teams against the threat of being distracted by the event.
"The road to get here kind of prepares you for that, because you're put in so many situations when you've faced a lot of adversity and it's a hostile environment," Adams said. "What we've done to get here will prepare the guys for that."
Having the proper mind-set and focus will be important for every player, but is absolutely imperative for the goaltenders. For Marc-Andre Fleury of the Penguins, that will mean trying to "not think too much about anything else, the outside stuff. Just try to keep it simple, one save at a time."
Fleury might well have to start making those shortly after the opening faceoff because home teams often try to seize control of such a game in the first 10 minutes, with the intent of generating momentum and a lead that will carry through the night.
"Usually, the home team comes with a big push," Adams said. "That's what we're going to be looking for. Our plan is not to sit back and wait and see. We want to be the aggressors."
Chances are the Penguins will be, at least on occasion. Just as it is likely that, if Detroit does open the game with a burst, it will not be the only one.
"I expect a lot of surges from them," Gill said. "They're a team with a lot of character and they're going to come hard. They're going to play a good game, and we're going to have to match it. Be better."
So far, all the good things the Penguins have done have earned nothing more than the right to play in the 15th Game 7 in Cup final history.
"It's something we've all dreamed of," center Sidney Crosby said. "We have a great opportunity."
And that much is guaranteed.
First Published June 12, 2009 12:00 am