|Appreciating the Opportunity |
PITTSBURGH -- Bill Guerin was last in the Stanley Cup Final in 1995, celebrating a Cup victory over the Detroit Red Wings, and Kris Draper, in a four-game sweep.
It has been a long time between Finals for Guerin.
"You never know what the future holds for opportunities and chances to win the Cup," Guerin said, acknowledging this may be his last, best chance. "But, yeah, I know where I'm at in my career. I know they're going to have to kick me out of this League because I want to keep playing as long as I can. But the opportunity is now. You know, the opportunity is now for a 38-year-old, and it's now for a 22-year-old, and for a 28-year-old. The opportunity is now, and you have to take it when you've got the opportunity."
Draper will be going for his fifth Cup, but he still knows the journey is as hard as it gets in sports.
"It's so hard to get back to this point that I think the older you get, the more you appreciate everything that's involved with the sacrifices from training camp through the 82 games, through the start of the playoffs to put yourself in that situation and try to get that opportunity to get back in the Stanley Cup Final and to make yourself successful," he said. "I know for me it's something that I'll never take for granted. I realize how fortunate that I am to be back here. How fortunate I am to be playing with the teammates that I have, and just really taking it all in.
"I've said it once, and I'll continue to say it -- for a hockey player, it just doesn't get any better than this. And to be in the situation that we're in right now and realizing how much more work that we have to do, everything we do from this point on, all the sacrifices, whatever it is, it's absolutely worthwhile to try to get it done and get that one more win."
Guerin said of the Penguins: "I think this team's going to be sniffing around for championships for a long time because of the way they've drafted the last some odd years. But, you know, you can't take opportunities for granted. You can't think they're going to come around every year because you can ask other older guys, they just don't."
-- Phil Coffey
Live for the moment.
In the overall scheme of life, that may be a bit shortsighted, but when you're a Detroit Red Wing or a Pittsburgh Penguin preparing for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS), there is no other way.
Game 6 yields one of two outcomes, a trip back to Detroit for Game 7, the Penguins' desired result, or for the Wings, back-to-back championships and validation as a dynasty.
"I like it being a defining moment," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Moments like this define where you're at at that particular time. You know, everyone in that room should be ready to play their best game and make a difference in the game by playing their part, by doing what we do as a team. And that's the challenge.
"We don't need one person to go out and score a goal," Bylsma said. "We don't need just Billy Guerin to step up his game. 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. We should bring that focus to the rink. Those are the type of games, we play that type of game, and that's what we need. We need a defining game."
So, there is no thinking about the past -- the ramifications of Game 5's Red Wings' win are left to the media and fans to dissect. There is no thought about what happens beyond Tuesday. All talk, all focus, all preparation is on one thing only: being ready for Game 6.
"We weren't happy with the effort (in Game 5), but we've moved on," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby
said. "We're keeping things in perspective here, knowing what we have to do. If we win, we give ourselves a chance in Game 7. That's the way it is, so we're fighting to stay alive here."
As are the Wings, who want to end it, not throw it up to chance in a seventh game, despite their success on home ice so far.
"As much as everyone wants to get caught up in momentum and carryover and all that stuff, I've said many times I'm not a big believer in that," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I'm a big believer in being prepared, getting focused and executing. If you do all those things, you have a chance to get lucky."
Down the hallway, the feeling is similar.
"You know, as a veteran you just try to keep guys together, make sure guys are OK and their heads are right," Bill Guerin said. "I know we do have a young team, but we have guys that are experienced and guys that are kind of made for this type thing.
is 20-years-old, but he seems like he's been in the league for 10 years. You don't really have to worry about guys like that. These guys seem to know how to really handle themselves, and it's pretty amazing.
"You know, for inspirational speeches and things like that, I don't know what's going to happen," Guerin said. "But we're going to do our best as a team to be ready for Tuesday."
There will be plenty of attention paid to the goaltenders. Even more to Pavel Datsyuk's successful return to the Detroit lineup in Game 5. There will be a lot of coaching going on, and the focus of all involved will increase to an almost sub-atomic level, not on the game as a whole, but down to the next shift, the next shot, the next stride.
"I think players, and all of us, get caught up in what you do if you won and all that," Babcock said. "But the reality is that just gets in the way of executing and preparing. So, if we want to be good as a group, we've got to prepare individually to do what we do, and then we have a chance to do that. When we get all caught up in the other stuff, you don't win."
Babcock has gotten his message across.
"When you only think that you need one more win, certainly the imagination is going to wander," veteran forward Kris Draper said. "But right now, you just have to keep everything in check. We haven't accomplished anything. You know, when we lost the two games in Pittsburgh, we basically said we're at a best two out of three now with having two games at the Joe, and not getting caught up in anything.
"That's one thing this team has been good at is just staying even keeled. No matter how we play or what the circumstances are. And it's something that we're going to continue to do, is not get caught up in it. I would love to talk about (winning the Cup) in a couple of days, but I know how much work we have.
"And like I said, how prepared Pittsburgh's going to be for Game 6, going back into their building where they just beat us twice. That's one thing. They feel with us going back into their building, they're going to be a confident group, and it's going to make for another great game."
Author: Phil Coffey | NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director