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Numbers look better for Wings in Game 7

by John Kreiser
The Detroit Red Wings will host the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night in the 15th Game 7 in the history of the Stanley Cup Final.

The Pens come in off a stirring 2-1 victory at home in Game 6 that pushed the series to the limit. But the defending champion Red Wings will be playing in front of their home fans at an arena in which they haven't lost in regulation during this year's playoffs.

So who's going to win? We can't say for sure -- but if the numbers mean anything, it looks like the Wings have an advantage.

Home cooking -- Home teams are 12-2 in Game 7 of the Final and have won the last six. The most recent team to win the Cup with a road win in Game 7 was the 1971 Montreal Canadiens, who rallied from a 2-0 second-period deficit for a 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks at Chicago Stadium.

Since then, the visiting team in Game 7 has been undone by a lack of scoring. The six visiting teams have allowed no more than three goals in any game -- but five of the six scored only once and the other (Vancouver in 1994) managed just two goals. In fact, only one visiting team in a Game 7 has scored more than two goals -- the New York Rangers had three in a 4-3 double-OT loss at Detroit in 1950.

The Red Wings have also been tough at home in this year's playoffs. They've won 11 of their 12 games at Joe Louis Arena -- and the one loss came in triple overtime to Anaheim in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals. They've won eight in a row at "The Joe" since then, including all three in this series against Pittsburgh.

One glimmer of hope for the Penguins: Detroit is one of the two teams to lose a Game 7 in the Final at home -- though it happened 64 years ago, when Toronto came to the Olympia and left with a 2-1 win and the Cup. However, the Pens are just 1-5 at Joe Louis Arena in the last two Finals.

Previous Game 7s -- No franchise has played in as many Game 7s in the Stanley Cup Final as the Red Wings -- though none of the current Wings were born the last time it happened. This will be the seventh in franchise history -- but the first since 1964, when Detroit lost Game 7 at Toronto. No other team has played more than four.

The Wings have played four of the six at home, winning in 1950, '54 and '55, while losing at Toronto in 1942 and 1964 and to the Leafs in Detroit in 1942.

Overall, the Wings have been pretty successful in Game 7s -- they're 12-7 in their previous 19, including a victory over Anaheim in the second round this year. Detroit has won its last three Game 7s overall and is 11-4 at home.

This is the Penguins' first Game 7 in the Final. They won the Cup against Minnesota in six games in 1991, swept Chicago in '92 and lost in six to the Red Wings last June.

Overall, Pittsburgh is 6-4 in its 10 Game 7s, including a 6-2 win at Washington in this year's Eastern Conference Semifinals -- the Pens' third Game 7 win in a row. Interestingly, the Penguins have won all four of the Game 7s they've played on the road.

Cup history --
The Penguins were the 24th team to host Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final needing a victory to prolong the series -- but only the 10th team to get one.

But of the 10 teams that pushed the Final to the limit, just two -- the 1950 Red Wings and 1971 Canadiens -- were able to seal the deal. And those Red Wings had some help from the circus: The New York Rangers led the Final 3-2, but were forced to play Games 6 and 7 at Detroit because the circus had taken over Madison Square Garden, denying them the chance to play any home games.

Since Montreal won Games 6 and 7 against Chicago in 1971, four teams (Philadelphia in 1987, Vancouver in 1994, Anaheim in 2003 and Edmonton in 2006) have won Game 6 to force a seventh and deciding game. All four lost.

Experience --
Each team has a player who's been on the winning side in Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final. Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski was part of the 2003 New Jersey Devils, who beat Anaheim 3-0 in Game 7. One year later, Ruslan Fedotenko -- now with Pittsburgh, scored both goals for Tampa Bay in a 2-1 victory over Florida to give the Lightning their only Stanley Cup.

Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Final GearPittsburgh's Petr Sykora (who may not play after getting injured in Game 6) was part of the Anaheim team that lost to Rafalski and the Devils six years ago (and the Devils team that lost to Colorado in 2001). That squad was coached by Mike Babcock, who now runs the Red Wings -- and included Dan Bylsma, now coach of the Penguins.

Rafalski is 5-1 in Game 7s, while teammate Nicklas Lidstrom has been on the winning side in four of the six Game 7s he's played in. Chris Chelios, the Wings' 47-year-old defenseman, is 4-1 in five Game 7s but doesn't figure to play in this one unless there's an injury prior to game time.

Sykora, Matt Cooke and Bill Guerin lead the Penguins with five Game 7 appearances -- Sykora and Cooke are 2-3 and Guerin is 3-2. Fedotenko and Craig Adams have won all three Game 7s in which they've played. Fedotenko has three goals in Game 7, the most by any player on either team.

Detroit goaltender Chris Osgood is 2-3 in Game 7s -- but 2-1 with the Wings (he lost once each with the New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues). Pittsburgh's victory over Washington earlier this spring is the only Game 7 on Marc-Andre Fleury's resume.

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