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Button: Everyone must contribute in Game 7

by Craig Button /

"Another day breaks and the last one's gone. You dig deep just to carry on."
-- Sam Roberts, from the song "Bridge to Nowhere"

Game 7 doesn't require a rousing motivational speech for the players to be ready to play. Six games have been played and the familiarity between the teams and the players is complete. Now it is left to breaking out the clichés. You know the ones; "they have to leave everything out there," "the first goal is going to be important," and my personal favorite, "your best players have to be your best players."

This isn't meant to be a myth buster, but one of the great myths is the one about "your best players having to be your best players." What does that say about your other players? Tell David Steckel, it is up to the best players to determine the outcome. Tyler Kennedy with two winning goals in the 2009 playoffs isn't waiting for the best players to try and make the difference between winning and losing. Jussi Jokinen is not standing idly by waiting for Eric Staal to be his best so the Hurricanes can emerge with a victory. All players are important to winning in the playoffs and each and every player must play to the best of their abilities for the team to have the best chance to win.

There is a tendency to look at the scoring statistics or at the individual goaltending records as an indicator to how well a player is playing or not playing. Hall-of-fame goaltender Grant Fuhr didn't have gaudy playoff statistical numbers, but he was dependable, reliable and capable of delivering the "big" saves at the critical times during the games, and it is reflected in four Stanley Cup Championships for him and the Edmonton Oilers.

You hear often that hockey is such a team game. There are so many important elements in the game that reflect upon success and each player must know his capabilities and try to play to his maximum potential. Patrice Bergeron has won 87.5 percent of faceoffs during shorthanded situations, which helps the Bruins be a better penalty killing team. Mark Eaton and Brooks Orpik are second and third respectively in the playoffs in blocked shots and that helps their goaltender. Todd Marchant winning 54.5 percent of his faceoffs means the Red Wings' vaunted offense has the puck a little less.

Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf are excellent players and it is necessary for them to score and excel in their other areas of strength, but as Columbus Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock says often; "you need all players pulling on the rope, for your team to be successful."

I leave the final word to two-time Stanley Cup Champion, Brian Skrudland, who when speaking after our team, the Dallas Stars, won the Stanley Cup in 1999, said; "Every player contributed to this championship. We have guys who play 20 minutes and others who play five minutes. We have defensive players and offensive players. The five minute-a-game players need the 20 minute-a-game players and vice versa and the defensive players need the offensive players as much as the offensive players need the defensive players."

Our eyes are drawn to the exciting players, as they should be. But when we watch the dramas that are the game sevens, the excitement of victory will be celebrated and a "bridge to somewhere" will be taken, by those teams which had contributions from all their players not just their best players.
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