PITTSBURGH – If there’s one thing in which the Detroit Red Wings can take solace going into Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, it’s that history heavily favors them to win the most important game of their season.
That’s because the Stanley Cup final has gone the distance on 14 occasions in NHL history and the home team has won 12 of those games. In fact, a road team has not won Game 7 of the final since the Montreal Canadiens did so in 1971 against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Red Wings will not spend the next two days fretting about their situation. They know the Penguins will not get the favorable matchups at home that led to the brilliance they displayed in their own end in Game 6. Evgeni Malkin and Ruslan Fedotenko, of all people, were demons in their own end in Game 6 and Rob Scuderi (hey GMs, potential unrestricted free agent) and Brooks Orpik were monstrous at the back end.
Actually, the Red Wings can do little but give credit to a Pittsburgh team that played by far its best all-around game of the series from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury out. The Penguins were disciplined and very poised for a team that was facing elimination on home ice and once again at home displayed an ability to keep the Red Wings from going too hard to their net.
Listen, it’s great to control the puck and all and Pavel Datsyuk was insane in that department, but with the exception of the third period when the Red Wings poured it on, it was an awful lot of fancy skating with few results.
“They played a real strong game defensively,” said Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. “They were a desperate team and I thought it showed and I thought they played really well without the puck.”
Now the Red Wings will count on their experience and the fact that they played hard all year to get home-ice advantage in the playoffs. The Penguins, on the other hand, have to wonder whether their lackluster play through much of the season might not be their ultimate downfall.
It could be if they lose Game 7 on the road. You’ll remember the Penguins stumbled through much of the first four months of the season before replacing Michel Therien with Dan Bylsma out of sheer desperation. Now, nobody is suggesting the Penguins would have racked up the 131 points Bylsma’s 18-3-4 record as coach would have put them on pace to earn, but had they made the change sooner, perhaps they would have given themselves a better chance to make up the 13 points they finished behind the Red Wings this season.
“It will be fun. We’re looking forward to it,” Lidstrom said of the prospect of playing in such a crucial game. “It’s something we fought for all year to get that home-ice advantage. You want to have it at the end of the season and now we have that advantage.”
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma played in one of those Game 7s while with the Ducks, which the New Jersey Devils won on home ice in 2003. Ruslan Fedotenko and Petr Sykora both have Game 7 Stanley Cup final experience for the Penguins, while Brian Rafalski and Ty Conklin have the same experience for the Red Wings.
“The best thing you can tell them is about going out and winning the game,” Bylsma said. “It’s not about trying not to lose. You try to go out and play your game. Play the way you’ve played all year long. Don’t wait back, sit back and wait for a mistake.”
GAME 6 THN THREE STARS
1. Marc-Andre Fleury
2. Chris Osgood
3. Tyler Kennedy
After a brilliant defensive play by Ruslan Fedotenko, Tyler Kennedy scored the game-winner with a gritty offensive effort at the other end.
NOTABLE NUMBER – 0
The number of power play goals scored in the game, a first for this series.
THN Shootout: Pens force Game 7
From the road in Pittsburgh, host Ken Campbell talks with KHL coach Barry Smith about… The Pens locking down on defense… Preparing a team for a Game 7…Predicting a very different result in the finale.
PRODUCER: TED COOPER
THN is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will file daily reports until a champion is crowned. To read other entries, click HERE. Also, check out THN.com’s regular video roundtable, the THN.com Shootout for updates from both Detroit and Pittsburgh.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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