NHL

Historically speaking, Penguins in tough for Game 7

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TSN.ca Staff
6/10/2009 4:56:17 PM
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The last time a team in the NHL, NBA, or Major League Baseball clinched a championship series by winning a Game 7 on the road, Wayne Gretzky was a rookie with the Edmonton Oilers.  Heck, even Chris Chelios was two years away from being drafted by the Montreal Canadiens.

But it was a Pittsburgh-based club that did it.  The Pirates won the 1979 World Series by beating the Orioles in a seventh game at Baltimore.

Since then, Game 7 home teams among the three sports have gone a perfect 18-0 in championship-deciding games. That means it's been 30 years since any team has accomplished what the Penguins will try to do on Friday against the Red Wings.

"I'm not a very good oddsmaker, so I'm not going to give you any odds," said Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. "I said it before Game 6 - on Feb. 15 (when Pittsburgh was 10th in the Eastern Conference, five points out of a playoff berth), we all would have signed up for whatever odds we got going into Game 6 against Detroit. That's an opportunity we gladly took and we've given ourselves an opportunity to do it in Game 7."

When the 15th-ever seventh game of a Stanley Cup Final is played in Detroit, the Red Wings will have history strongly on their side. In the previous 14 such games, the home team has won 12 times. And the last team to pull off a Stanley Cup-winning Game 7 road victory goes even further back than the '79 Pirates. It was Ken Dryden and the 1971 Canadiens who came back from two games down to the Blackhawks and won Game 7 in Chicago.

The Penguins and Red Wings will play the fifth Stanley Cup-deciding Game 7 in the past nine seasons (2001 - Colorado def. New Jersey, 2003 - New Jersey def. Anaheim, 2004 - Tampa Bay def. Calgary, 2006 - Carolina def. Edmonton).

Despite their loss in Game 6, the defending champion Red Wings are upbeat about having a chance to play the final game of the series at Joe Louis Arena, where they are 11-1 in the post-season.

"This is great. To have a Game 7 in our building, with our fans, and knowing that we have that opportunity to win the Stanley Cup on Friday night is something that we're all excited about," said Red Wings forward Kris Draper. "We're going to do everything that we can to get the job done."

"You would spend your whole life as a kid, at least in Canada...when you don't even have a net but you had little snowplows on the street, and you're dreaming of scoring the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final," said Detroit head coach Mike Babcock.  "You've been doing that your whole life. Now you've got it - play. Have some fun."

For Bylsma, who was a defenceman on the 2003 Mighty Ducks team that lost in seven games to the New Jersey Devils, memories of losing the deciding game are still with him.

"I read not long ago that "experience is what you get when you don't get the result you want". I don't want that experience again," said Bylsma. "I had it in 2003 and these guys had it last year, and I don't think they want to gain that experience again."

The Penguins do have some good karma to call on, though. The team is 4-0 all-time in road Game 7's.

Staal celebrates (Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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