History is supposed to teach us lessons and give us insight into the future. When it comes to tonight's Game 7 in Detroit between the Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, what view is pertinent -- the overall history or recent recall?
A winner-take-all scenario to decide the Stanley Cup winner is a special occasion to be sure. Only 14 times has it come down to this, most recently in 2006 when the Carolina Hurricanes outdid the Edmonton Oilers. Only twice has the road team emerged as the victor -- the last being the 1971 Montreal Canadiens, the first being the 1945 Toronto Maple Leafs. In the long view, then, the Penguins are facing long odds to prevail.
So, what of home-ice advantage? The home team won each of the first six games of this series, and the 2003, 1965 and 1955 Cup finals were decided in exactly that fashion. Why does it seem to matter so much when the game matters most?
Well, home ice becomes the rallying point for the reason for the season. With everything at stake on the biggest stage, with the best players, at the height of competition, familiarity becomes, as the numbers indicate, a subtle, tangible and tactical positive. In an even set, between two obviously well-matched teams, nuances add up as difference-makers. These include having the last line change to get favorable matchups, and the home side centermen enjoying an edge in leverage and strategy thanks to their ability to declare their position after their visiting opponent is set in the circle.
And what of recent history -- the moments both of these teams can draw strength from in the immediate? Where does the collective mindset of the athletes fit into all of this? For the Penguins, they certainly have the very real mental image of winning a Game 7 on the road in Washington this spring. They also know that they won at Joe Louis Arena last year when facing elimination, forcing a Game 6 with their triple overtime Gave 5 triumph. Can they do it again this time in Detroit?
The fact remains that their goaltender,
And what of the Red Wings? They won a Game 7 on home ice earlier in the playoffs against the Anaheim Ducks. They are the defending Stanley Cup champions looking to repeat -- a single win away from fulfilling that goal. You would expect a certain calm and assuredness from the champs. But not all on their side know the feeling of delivering the ultimate prize.
For their part, the Penguins added
Still, we all want to believe that a game of this magnitude will come down to whose stars will align and shine.
It will be riveting, compelling and telling... and historic.