by Marc Ciampa
Jussi Markkanen poses with his father Veijo Markkanen in the Carolina dressing room before Game 1.
Shortly following the opening game of the Stanley Cup Final, when Jussi Markkanen got the nod for Game 2 from Oilers head Craig MacTavish, the Edmonton netminder was able to get immediate family advice on how to handle the pressure-filled situation.
His father, Veijo Markkanen, was in Raleigh, North Carolina for the first two games of the series and Jussi was able to talk to him.
"He couldnt say anything, he was so nervous," Markkanen joked when asked what his dad said to him before his Stanley Cup playoff and Stanley Cup Final debut.
"He said give yourself a chance to be successful," Markkanen stated. "Go out there, have fun, play like you can. Your skills don't disappear in three months."
Veijo Markkanen would know a thing or two about performing under pressure having coached at a number of different levels in Finland for over 30 years.
"He had been a junior coach for 30 years back home, not coaching anymore but seeing me play since I was a kid. Taking me to practices, taking me to the games, pretty much watching every game I played."
Given the rare opportunity to play in front of family and even rarer opportunity to play in the Stanley Cup Final, Markkanen performed extremely well. Although the end result was undesirable, he did show that he has what it takes to lead the Oilers to a series comeback.
Certainly, it was under unfortunate circumstances with the Roloson injury but considering the elder Markkanen was planning to make the trip either way, he was able to see his son play.
"He called me after we beat Anaheim and there was a chance to get tickets," Jussi Markkanen said. "He had no time to come to Edmonton because he's still working but he could make a four or five day trip to the east coast, Buffalo or Carolina.
"He took the flight to New York so he could go either way from there."
Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish was happy with what he saw from his goaltender Wednesday and an improved performance from the team in front of him should achieve desirable results Saturday.
"Jussi played his best hockey when Ty was hurt and he had the mental latitude to know that he was not looking over his shoulder to get pulled and knew that he was going to be the guy and we were going to swim with him. I think that helps, but he's been calm, and I am pretty confident he's going to give us another good game," said MacTavish.
Theres still five games left in this series, plenty of time to turn Markkanen into the unlikeliest of heroes.
"Obviously, nobody thought I'd be in this situation," he said. "It's everybody's dream to play in the Stanley Cup Final and I'm really looking forward to this opportunity for sure."
His father is now back in Helsinki but Markkanen was glad he was able to see him play.
"I think it was a big thing for him and I was really happy he was there."