Here were are now. One team can raise the Stanley Cup in victory tonight. The other team can avoid elimination and push the Stanley Cup Final to Game 7 Friday night.
Whether you are in the Detroit Red Wings
dressing room up three games to two and ready to capture your second straight Stanley Cup or if you are in the Pittsburgh Penguins
room, do or die, backs against the wall, you can still feel the potential of greatness.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has been on both sides, winning last year in Detroit after losing in seven games to New Jersey in 2003 when he was behind the bench in Anaheim.
"Every guy in that room wants to win for a whole bunch of different reasons. But to have success, you have to want to do it for the guy next to you, and the guy across from you," Babcock explained so eloquently the other day. "Winning together, paying the price, on every shift, in every game. It's all about sacrificing individually to win as a team.
"You win together today, you walk together forever. I'm a big believer in that. You never forget the guys you've won with."
Not today, wait til Friday --
The Penguins want to raise the roof at Mellon Arena, where they've won both games in the Final. They want to put aside that embarrassing 5-0 Game 5 loss in Detroit on Saturday.
Clearly, everyone can be better.
"I've got to be my best, just like everyone else has to," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby
. "These are the games where we all need to find a way to find that extra level. I'm not any different.
"You never know how many opportunities you are going to get. So when you get them, you want to make the most of them."
Said veteran winger Bill Guerin
, "Sometimes, fear is a weapon. You have to use that to drive you."
In other words, the Penguins are looking for a defining moment, like the Game 4 shorthanded goal by Jordan Staal
that took the wind out of the Red Wings and tied the series at two games apiece. This time, that kind of performance has to come from a lot of people.
"Obviously, that's what helps win championships, guys coming out of nowhere to help out. Everybody's got to contribute," added Chris Kunitz
. "I've got to be better. But right now, we're looking for just anyone to score goals to help us win."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma
gave said it wasn't all about Crosby and Evgeni Malkin
or Marc-Andre Fleury
playing their best. It was about a group effort playing for pride, looking for a spark.
"I like it being a defining moment," Bylsma said. "Everyone in that room should be ready to play their best game and make a difference, by doing what we do as a team. Everyone needs to be ready to have the puck on their stick and make THE play or make THE defensive play or block THE shot or make THE save. That's what we need. We need a defining game."
Light at the end of the tunnel -- Nicklas Lidstrom
wouldn't jinx the Wings by talking about winning one for the thumb -- five Stanley Cups -- along with teammates Kris Draper
, Kirk Maltby
, Tomas Holmstrom
and Darren McCarty
. But he did discuss how close the Cup is for both teams.
"When you're in the first, second or third round, you're looking to advance. You're looking to move up and play in the next round or you're getting ready for the next round," he observed. "When you're in the Final, you know you can see the end. You know when you're close to the end. You know you almost reached the ultimate goal.
"You're happy with advancing in the playoffs, but when you're in the Final you want to win those four games to win the Stanley Cup."
The power of positive thinking --
Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood
has heard all the negatives. But, one game away from leading Detroit to backstopping Detroit to a third Stanley Cup, Ozzie is philosophical about his place in history.
He'll have no talk about the past.
"That's a good word, past," he said matter of factly Tuesday. "I don't look at the past. I look ahead. To me, I look at positives in the past. I take negatives and I use them as positives. That's why I'm still playing. That's why I'm still here. I don't dwell on things that happened. I don't beat myself up over something that's happened during the regular season.
"I think about all the things that I've done and I take things that haven't worked out so well and I use them to my advantage. I try to use everything to make myself better on the ice."
Going into Game 6, Osgood had an 11-4 career record in 16 Stanley Cup Final games for a .733 winning percentage -- fourth behind Ken Dryden (24-8, .750), Billy Smith
(17-6, .739) and Grant Fuhr
But a win would put Ozzie in a first-place tie with Dryden at .750.
Home sweet home --
We've established that Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
is 17-4 at home in the playoffs the past two years. So ...
It should also be pointed out that home teams come into Game 6 with a 5-0 record in the series. But, for the record, teams hosting Game 6 trailing in the Final 3-2 have posted only a 9-14 record since the best-of-7 format was introduced in 1939.
Of the nine teams that forced a seventh and deciding game only two went on to capture the Cup -- the 1950 Detroit Red Wings
and the 1971 Montreal Canadiens