Pressure, drama of Game 7 unparalleled - NBC Sports

Pressure, drama of Game 7 unparalleled
Glory awaits - as well as the goat's horn - as Bruins, Canucks face off for Lord Stanley's Cup in winner-take-all game
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Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk carries the Stanley Cup past fans after Tampa Bay beat Calgary 2-1 in Game 7 in 2004.
June 14, 2011, 8:06 pm

One of them is going to leave the ice with the Stanley Cup. Momentum is meaningless. And someone is going to be a hero.

That someone might not be the someone you'd think.

Sometimes, Stanley Cup finals Game 7 scenarios are decided by the legends of the game. Montreal Canadiens stars Jean Beliveau (1965) and Henri Richard (1971) scored Game 7 Cup winners, as did Mark Messier of the New York Rangers and the Detroit Red Wings' Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe (1955).

But in Detroit's other two Game 7 victories in Cup finals play, lesser lights - Pete Babando (1950) and Tony Leswick (1954) - scored the winning goals in overtime.

In 2009, the last time the Cup finals went the distance, Pittsburgh grinder Max Talbot made the difference, scoring both goals in the Penguins' 2-1 triumph over the Wings. The 2006 Cup finals between Carolina and Edmonton also went to Game 7, and journeyman Hurricanes defenseman Frantisek Kaberle - brother of Bruins defenseman Tomas Kaberle - dented twine with the Cup winner.

Bruins forward Mark Recchi was on that Hurricanes team. He also won a Cup with the Penguins in 1991 and knows that this setting is what every youngster with a hockey stick dreams of when playing on the driveway or the backyard rink: scoring the winner in Game 7 of the Cup finals.

"This is what we dream of, when you're little kids playing street hockey, you know, you're in Game 7," Recchi said. "The biggest thing is just embracing it. We've had pressure all year, pressure all through the playoffs. It's come down to one game."

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The Canucks never have won the Stanley Cup, and the Bruins have gone without Lord Stanley's mug since 1972, so whoever wins Game 7, it will be a huge deal for years to come. Boston also is seeking to become the first team in NHL history to win three Game 7s en route to a Cup triumph.

The best way to deal with the intensity that accompanies a Game 7 is to embrace the opportunity to achieve what for many is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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As bad as things look for Vancouver following another drubbing in Boston - a 5-2 thrashing in Game 6 - history suggests that the Canucks remain in the catbird's seat.

"We're going to win Game 7," Canucks forward Daniel Sedin said in their dressing room immediately after the Game 6 setback, a statement as much based in reality as it is bravado.

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That's another thing to anticipate Wednesday: It's going to be a close game. All three games in this series played in Vancouver have resulted in one-goal decisions, as have seven previous Stanley Cup finals Game 7 contests, two of which were decided in overtime.

In Game 5, the Canucks put aside their failures in Boston during Games 3 and 4, and Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault is confident they will do so again.

"We're going back home," Vigneault said. "We've got home ice. We worked all year long to get home ice. Our fans are going to be excited, and our players are going to be excited."

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The home team has won all six games in this finals set, and it's only happened three times in Stanley Cup finals history that the home team held serve through the entire seven-game set - when Detroit toppled Montreal in 1995; when Montreal handled Chicago in 1965; and when New Jersey beat Anaheim in 2003.

On the other hand, Montreal, against Chicago in 1971, and Pittsburgh in 2009 against Detroit, both won Game 7 on the road after the first six games of the final went to the home teams.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has lived both scenarios. He was on the losing side as a player with the 2003 Ducks before leading the Pens to glory six years later. As much as Bylsma knows there will be a Game 7 hero, he's also aware that someone may be haunted as a Game 7 goat.

That was the fate of Chicago goalie Tony Esposito, who missed Jacques Lemaire's floater from outside the blue line with the Blackhawks ahead 2-0 in Game 7 of the 1971 finals, sparking Montreal's rally for a 3-2 victory at Chicago Stadium.

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"That was a chance when it was 0-0, and I do remember it vividly," Bylsma said. "That's going to happen in this next game. There's going to be a chance."

It might be off a blocked shot, on a power play, or perhaps from a broken play. But someone will take advantage and emerge heroic.

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Byslma understands what both teams are going through, and what they will go through in their memory banks for years to come.

"That play's going to be a lot of guy's sticks in this game," Bylsma said of the potential Cup-winning shot.

The one who converts the chance will live forever in hockey lore.

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