Jeff MacMurray recalls the moment of truth when he logged on to NHL.com to submit his final-round winner in the Stanley Cup Playoffs Challenge earlier this month.
"I agonized making my pick in the Final," MacMurray told NHL.com. "It wasn't a matter of going against the grain -- I wanted to make the right pick. And after watching those (Penguins) speak in interviews, they convinced me they were going to win."
Not only did the Bracebridge, Ontario, native feel the Penguins would win the Cup, but he predicted they'd do so in seven games. His Nostradamus-like moment in time catapulted him to the top of the leaderboard following Pittsburgh's seven-game series triumph against the Detroit Red Wings
en route to claiming the $500 shop.NHL.com gift certificate grand prize.
MacMurray, who played hockey as a teenager in the Brampton area (of Southern Ontario) whenever he got the chance, has a pretty good idea what his first purchase will be on shop.nhl.com.
"I think I'm going to get an (Alex) Ovechkin jersey," MacMurray said. "I like the way he plays. He's hands down the best player in the League right now. I also promised a friend of mine I'd get her a pink Toronto Maple Leafs
jersey if I won -- I'll keep my promise."
His triumph has certainly been the talk of Bracebridge, where Hockey Hall of Famer Irvin "Ace" Bailey, NHL Senior Director of Hockey Operations Kris King
and 1965 Calder Trophy-winning goalie Roger Crozier
are the notable hometown heroes.
MacMurray scored 400 out of a possible 915 points in the NHL.com selection game that included 94,373 registrants. Each entrant was required to correctly predict the winner of each playoff series and since the NHL reseeds after each round, users were required to submit new choices at the start of those rounds.
Leading up to the Final, MacMurray, 39, was a perfect 7-for-7 predicting the Eastern Conference side. He went 4-for-7 predicting the West -- incorrectly choosing Calgary over Chicago in the opening round and Vancouver over Chicago and Anaheim over Detroit in the second.
"At the outset of the playoffs, I didn't pick the Pens -- I think the smart money was on Detroit although I picked the Ducks to beat them in the Conference Semifinal, but that series went seven games and Detroit scored the winner with only a few minutes left in the third period so I don't regret the pick," MacMurray said. "I love to pick the underdog when I think they have a chance."
Users were also asked bonus questions -- How many games will each series last? How many total goals will be scored? MacMurray correctly answered seven bonus questions, including the exact number of games in a series on three occasions and total number of goals four times.
"In the third round series between Detroit and Chicago, I picked the Wings in five games with 29 goals," MacMurray said. "I was at my nephews' watching Game 5 and it ended 2-1 and that was exciting because I knew I needed a 3-goal game to get all the points (70). It all happened and catapulted me into second place (overall)."
MacMurray's prophetic prediction for the Cup Final then put him over the top.
"The Penguins had a great attitude (entering the Final) and when I listened to (Sidney) Crosby in interviews, I just think he said the right things and had his head together," MacMurray said. "He didn't seem like a young rookie anymore. He was intense and anyone who thinks he's too young a captain is dead wrong."
In addition to making an attempt to defend his crown next spring, MacMurray might also try his hand at a few other contests.
"I didn't participate in any fantasy hockey pools this year, but you can bet I will next season," he said.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.