So I've been MIA again for a while, but I'm back for some seventh game ramblings...
-I can't decide whether I'd be more surprised to see Carolina or Edmonton win the Stanley Cup. Carolina seems to be in a freefall after Game Six; they were not competitive in that game, not even its power play could find a goal (which is pretty surprising). I still look at the rosters and think that Carolina is more stacked with talent that Edmonton. But they didn't look like that team in the last two games. It's hard to believe in a team that has failed to win the Stanley Cup for two straight games.
But Edmonton would still be a surprise victor too. Jussi Markkanen has made you forget that playoff standout Dwayne Roloson went out with an injury in Game One. Chris Pronger hasn't dominated this series as he had others. Shawn Horcoff has had a quiet Finals. And don't forget, this is the EIGHTH seed we're talking about it here.
-Most people say that numbers mean nothing. But don't believe them for a second. If Edmonton hopes to win tonight, they would have to overcome these odds:
-It would be the first time since the 1979 Baltimore Orioles that any team in the major sports has come back from a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series to win the championship.
-The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only other team in NHL history to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the Stanley Cup.
-Home teams are 11-2 in Game Seven of the Finals.
-Before the series, I said I wasn't sure who I would cheer for. But as the series wore on (a lot longer than early indications), I've found myself pulling for the Oilers. I think the trigger was the Roloson injury; without him, they seem so much more likable. And please, I'd take Craig MacTavish over Peter Laviolette any day of the week. MacT's expressions on the bench are priceless, and he almost seemed shocked when the Oilers won Game Six. Laviolette still rubs me the wrong way in his press conferences.
-Speaking of Laviolette... I think we should refer to him as the "master of bold moves" from now on. In the first round, he pulls Martin Gerber for Cam (who?) Ward, a 22-year-old who just happens to be the most level-headed person on the planet. Then, in the conference finals, Laviolette deserts his rookie wonder to go back to Gerber. Gerber nabs a shutout, but then gets pulled in the next game for allowing three goals on 11 shots. Ward lost Game Six on a weak goal by Daniel Briere, but Laviolette has since stuck with him.
Laviolette pulled another trick out of his bag in Game Six of the Finals, when Erik Cole suddenly appeared in the lineup after not playing since Mar. 4. He hadn't been taking contact in practice; he had a broken vertebrae in his neck for crying out loud. But there he was, inserted in the lineup for the injured Doug Weight. Cole wasn't bad, but he wasn't good either -- he was falling all over the ice and seemed to have trouble keeping speed (ooh shocker!). It'll be interesting to see how the move pans out in Game Seven.
-I'm conflicted about the chance of Michael Peca winning the Stanley Cup. He was my favorite player for the longest time, and I still admire his game. But the Buffalo break-up was so sour. And Edmonton isn't Buffalo; it seems wrong to see "our" captain win with another team.
Still, Peca holds a spot in Sabres history. He still spends time in Buffalo in the offseason. Remember his comments after Edmonton's controversial goal in Game Three of the Finals? When Ryan Smyth was bulldozing over Cam Ward en route to the winning goal?
"...the 1999 finals, when Peca played for Buffalo and wound up on the wrong side of Dallas' cup-winning goal. He said there's no comparison between that play and Smyth's goal in Game 3.
"Not even close," Peca said. "That was a goal that shouldn't have counted, and it cost us the Stanley Cup." '
That comment reminded me of Rhett Warrener's comment a couple of years back about still having nightmares about the play. And Peca has always embodied the "Buffalo" mentality:
"While you might say the Oilers are following the yellow brick road in their dreams of winning their first Stanley Cup since 1990, Peca discerns an even closer parallel to his hockey role in another movie. It's one of Sylvester Stallone's less memorable films -- Over the Top.
"I identify with the character he plays in that movie the most because he's a small guy who arm-wrestles this giant guy who has never been beaten and wins..." ' (NHL.com)
-One reason to root against Carolina, courtesy of WGR's Jeremy White: save yourself the pain of seeing Rod Brind'amour's face on a magazine cover.
-One reason to cheer for Edmonton: Fernando Pisani. We're all cousins of Little Italy's favorite son. Listen to the "Fernando" song at Edmonton's Team 1260 website.