|Tuesday, June 30th |
Stanley Cup Triumph
There is no more exciting scenario in hockey.
An 82-game regular season schedule and four rounds of playoff action, and the entire 2008-9 season came down to one single contest. Two outstanding teams, both yearning for that elusive sixteenth victory that will allow them to be forever known as the 2009 Stanley Cup champions.
And if that drama wasn't enough, these same two teams battled fiercely in the Stanley Cup final one year previous. The victor and the vanquished, meeting one year later, now both knowing what it takes to call yourself a champion.
Trying to avoid clichés is difficult when the entire season came down to one final contest between two worthy opponents. Do or die. There's no tomorrow. Leave it all on the ice. No regrets.
* * *
The Stanley Cup final expanded to a best-of-seven series in 1939. Since then, the Stanley Cup has been awarded after a seventh and deciding game on just fourteen occasions. In 1942 and 1945, it was the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Red Wings won the championship in a seventh game in 1950, 1954, and 1955. Toronto's Cup win in 1964 took a seventh game to clinch. Montreal's win in 1971 happened after a Game 7, as did the Oilers' victory in 1987. The Rangers won the Cup in seven games in 1994, as did the Colorado Avalanche in 2001. That was the situation when the New Jersey Devils won in 2003, and in 2004 when the Tampa Bay Lightning laid claim to hockey's most cherished prize. Previous to this spring, the last time a Stanley Cup was decided in Game Seven was in 2006 when the Carolina Hurricanes won their first franchise championship.
On Friday, June 12, 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins faced the Detroit Red Wings in Game Seven at Joe Louis Arena in the Motor City. There were detractors who didn't think the series would get to a seventh game after Detroit took Games One and Two with matching 3-1 scores. But the Penguins returned home, regrouped and delivered their own twin scores of 4-2 in Games Three and Four. The Wings spanked Pittsburgh 5-0 in Game Five, followed by a Penguins' victory in Game Six, setting the stage for the clinching game.
Just 73-seconds into the second period, Pittsburgh's Maxime Talbot beat Chris Osgood to put the Pens up 1-0. At 9:54 of that same period, that same sniper added goal number two — the eventual Stanley Cup winner — with a blast over Osgood's glove into the far side of the yawning cage. Talbot, who had been teased about his "little bit bad hands" by teammate Evgeni Malkin, circled around the Detroit net and fell to his knees, pumping his gloved fist as he celebrated.
Detroit persevered, but Pittsburgh executed a near-perfect game to foil the Wings. Losing Sidney Crosby to a knee injury mid-way through the second period didn't unhinge the Penguins. In fact, having Sidney looking on as a spectator may very well have made the team more resolute in their desire to cradle Lord Stanley's Cup. Jonathan Ericsson scored for Detroit at 13:53 of the third, but still the Pens seemed unflappable. Likewise when Niklas Kronwall's deflected shot kerranged off the crossbar behind Marc-Andre Fleury, who reached back to thank the iron. "It made a big save for us," Fleury told CBC's 'Hockey Night in Canada.' In fact, Fleury stood on his head through the game, ensuring the victory celebration with a diving block on a Lidstrom chance mere moments before the final buzzer.
The game ended and a sea of white jerseys converged on Fleury in the Pittsburgh crease. The win ended one dynasty. There is every reason to believe it could signal the beginning of another.
To read the rest of this journal please visit the Hockey Hall Of Fame website.
|Nathalie Lemieux, Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux pose for a photo with the Stanley Cup. (Craig Campbell/Hockey Hall of Fame) |
|Sidney Crosby and Bill Guerin hoist the Stanley Cup. (Craig Campbell/Hockey Hall of Fame) |
|Mathieu Garon and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins following their team's Stanley Cup win in Game 7. (Craig Campbell/Hockey Hall of Fame) |
|Rob Scuderi drinks out of the Stanley Cup. (Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame) |