June 19, 2006
Agony or ecstasy?There's no middle ground for Oilers in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final
By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Remembered forever. Forgotten fast.
There are two sides to the coin when you get to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
It isn't upside, downside, heads you win, tails you lose. This is where the high doesn't get any higher and the low doesn't get any lower.
The dream of every kid playing hockey on every street in every city in Canada comes true when you get to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. Win and you get to live it forever.
In real life, though, it will be one and done. A remarkable run will come undone for either the Edmonton Oilers or the Carolina Hurricanes. A team that got close will go down as another team that couldn't close.
But in this case, will it be remembered forever and forgotten fast?
No matter who loses, how will the team that loses tonight be forgotten?
If it's the Oilers, this has been storybook all the way. And if the Hurricanes lose, well, no team has come undone like this in the Stanley Cup final since 1942.
HISTORY NOT ON THEIR SIDE
History says there's no coin flip involved when you get here. Home team wins. Eleven times out of 13. Every one since Montreal over Chicago in 1971.
Twenty-twenty vision, on the other hand, is telling a lot of people covering this series that one team is already done - that the Hurricanes are mentally and physically broken down and have run out of gas.
Which way will it work?
Craig MacTavish, who won two Game 7s of the Stanley Cup final in his career, says he senses a state of calm around the Oilers.
"I'm not nervous about it. But I'm really anxiously awaiting it. I mean, I'm a fan of the game, too, and I can't wait to see the whole thing unfold. I said that going into Game 6, that there were a lot of questions to be answered and it's the same going into Game 7. It's going to be a heck of a game."
Mentally and physically broken down and out of gas is the most popular perspective.
"I'd say don't count us out," said Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette.
"It's one game. It's a one-game shot.
"Game 5 was tough to swallow. In overtime we were set up to win it on our power play and it didn't happen. It was tough to get over. It was the toughest one we've been through. And then Game 6 was just terrible. We were pretty lousy on all aspects.
"That's yesterday's news. We didn't have our energy in our legs, in our skating and all the things that have been our trademark for us all season long. I hope all of our paralyzation is out of us after last night. We were pretty paralyzed.
"We've won a lot of hockey games this year - more than anybody in the NHL. This team knows how to win. They know how to win on home ice. We're back in our building where we had a lot of success."
Out of gas?
"I don't believe we're out of gas," said Glen Wesley. "We have plenty in the tank left. I think we're all embarrassed the way we played in Edmonton. If that doesn't add fuel, we're in a lot of trouble."
The Hurricanes were putting happy faces on it when they arrived. "Worried? Worried is not the word," said Kevyn Adams. "We're more excited."
One factor that hasn't been mentioned much in this series, mostly because Game 3 and Game 6 in Edmonton followed two-day breaks between games, is travel.
The Hurricanes haven't played a game outside the Eastern time zone since December.
Is that one of the factors kicking in here?
"We're going to find out here shortly," said Chris Pronger. We'll find out how the travel and everything plays out on them.
"We feel fresh."
MacTavish said it's tough to tell.
"It's hard to evaluate where the opposition is in terms of fatigue and a physical standpoint. I think that nine-day break before the series probably hurt us early and is helping us now. We've been trying to inflict as much damage as we can within the rules and it may be having an effect. It had an effect on Doug Weight. He's unable to play."
With everything involved, the game plan doesn't change, said MacTavish.
"Your goal has to be to dominate the opposition to the point that you take out good goaltending, bad breaks and all that stuff and factor it out of the equation. That will be our game plan. I'm sure it will be theirs.
"We're playing better but we're not getting led down the garden path by that, either. They're going to come hard.
"It's going to be an all-out blitz by both teams. It's going to be great."
It's going to be a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, just like every kid in Canada used to dream on every street in Canada.
Only half the dreams will come true.