DETROIT – Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final seems to be a magnet for syrupy stories about playing on the pond or in the driveway. It’s also a big time for people to trot out meaningless statistics and trends that have absolutely nothing to do with the game about to be played.
Nice diversions, but none of it matters once the puck drops for Game 7. Here are five things, in our opinion, that will:
1. CROSBY VS. ZETTERBERG
Sidney Crosby has just one assist in six Stanley Cup final games at the Joe Louis Arena, in no small part due to the fact Henrik Zetterberg has thrown a blanket over him.
What might go unnoticed, though, is that has allowed Evgeni Malkin to flourish.
But Crosby knows the Penguins chances of winning the game rise exponentially with his ability to create offense. He felt he had a good omen during the morning skate when he fired a puck top shelf that got lodged in the net for about 15 minutes.
“I don’t usually go top shelf, so I’ll take those ones,” Crosby said. “But certainly I’d like to see one go in tonight for sure.”
This is a far bigger factor for the Penguins than it is for the Red Wings. We’re reasonably certain Chris Osgood won’t lay an egg in Game 7, but Marc-Andre Fleury is a wildcard. In the three games at the Joe in this year’s final, Fleury is 0-3 with an .857 save percentage. If you include the Penguins 7-6 overtime win in the only game played between the two teams at the JLA this regular season, his save percentage dips to .847.
3. EXPERIENCE VS. YOUTH
No more Red Wings have been involved in a Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final than Penguins, but the Wings enter this one with a lot more big-game experience. If Detroit plays the way they’re capable of playing, there’s not a team, including the Penguins, who can play with them. They have home-ice advantage in this series for a reason – they were the better team all year. It will be incumbent upon the Penguins to get physical as early as they did in Game 6 and try their best to get out of the first 10 minutes of the game without putting themselves in a hole.
4. WHERE’S HOSSA?
There is no way of sugar coating the fact Marian Hossa has been a major playoff disappointment for the Red Wings. That might be good news for the Wings if they hope to sign him long-term and have that weapon to use in contract negotiations, but it’s not good news for them on the ice. Hossa is a difference-maker who hasn’t made a difference yet. Now would be a perfect time.
5. HOW WILL IT BE CALLED?
The referees for Game 7 are Paul Devorski and Bill McCreary, two of the best in the game. They have to find a balance between allowing teams to battle and calling things according to the new NHL’s mandate. Detroit’s power play has been so good and their penalty-killing so suspect that a parade to the box would not be good news for either team.
Other notes leading up to Game 7…
The Penguin players figure they’ll have a day off Saturday whether they win or lose Game 7, but coach Dan Bylsma wasn’t so sure.
“How do they know I’m going to give them a day off,” Bylsma joked.
The Red Wings are well aware their success has helped some people in Detroit during hard times, both in terms of optimism and real work.
“When I’m walking out or coming in, the ladies always remind me in the playoffs, ‘Coach, we got to get a win today. I want to work tomorrow,” ’ said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. “That hits home. They don’t mind telling me either, they make sure. And I respect that, I really do, because there’s lots of people who get to work longer because we played better.”
Some coaches become legendary for their inspirational speeches before big games, but don’t expect that from either Babcock or Bylsma.
“If anything, I’ll probably be calmer and more boring,” Babcock said. “No, I don’t believe in that.”
Said Bylsma: “I don’t have anything written down or prepared. I don’t think it’s going to be a Herb Brooks or a Vince Lombardi type of speech.”
THN.com Shootout: Game 7 Preview with senior writer Ken Campbell and TSN’s Bob McKenzie
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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