I've said it before and I'll say it again. There is nothing better in playoff sports than Game 7 of a Stanley Cup series. And this one will be for the cup, no less.
The NHL has made a habit of this of late. This will be the third straight [and 4th in five years] Stanley Cup Finals to go the full seven games. In 2004, the Lighting beat the Flames in Game 7. The previous year, the Devils downed the Ducks. In 2001, the Avalanche beat the Devils in Game 7 [the lone exception was Detroit's beating of Carolina in five games in 2002].
Odd, since the 13 years before that Aves-Devils series, only ONE Stanley Cup Finals series went the full distance. That was the magical 1994 Rangers championship as they beat the Canucks in a wild Game 7 atmosphere in Madison Square Garden.
The next four Cup Finals after that Rangers-Canucks series ended in sweeps.
So this is an event we should all relish it. Sure, the game will be played in - Raleigh? But the crowd will be ready...the cup will be polished....the commish will be in his Sunday best.....and the hockey world will be watching. History will be made. Will the Carolina Hurricanes win their first championship? Will the Edmonton Oilers win the Cup after entering the playoffs as the 8th seed in the West?
The two former WHA franchises [the first time that's happened in the Finals] will determine NHL's champion. The Oilers, who are semi-NHL royalty......with five Cups and the homebase for the sport's greatest player, Wayne Gretzky. Those 1980s Oiler teams were some of the greatest to grace the sport and what brought me to the game. The Canes are on the other end. They are a relatively new franchise, at least in Carolina, with a very new fanbase. In their former life as the Hartford Whalers, they were the laughingstock of the NHL. A sorta LA Clippers of their league. Whe 16 of the 21 teams made the postseason, usually, the Whale wasn't one of them.
Again, the game is in Raleigh. Home ice advantage means nothing in the NHL. Or does it?
The Carolina Hurricanes won Game 7, at home, of the Eastern Conference Finals against Buffalo. But, in an earlier round, Anaheim won Game 7 in Calgary.
Home NHL teams in Game 7s of best-of-7 playoff series have a 74-44 record in all rounds, and an 11-2 record in the Finals. In best-of-7 MLB/NBA/NHL Finals-round Game 7s, home teams are on a 17-game winning streak which started with the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1982 World Series and extends through the Spurs' win in San Antonio in the 2005 NBA Finals.
Four Stanley Cup Finals were won by the home team in Game 7 during that streak.
Five times the Stanley Cup finals have reached Game 7 after a team had evened the series after having trailed three games to one. On only one of those five occasions has the team that had been trailing three games to one come back to win, and in that case, the Maple Leafs had come back from a three-games-to-none deficit to defeat the Red Wings in 1942.
In each of the four most recent cases in which teams that led three games to one were forced to a Game 7 in the finals, those teams bounced back to win: Toronto over Detroit in 1945, Detroit over Montreal in 1954, Edmonton over Philadelphia in 1987 and the Rangers over Vancouver in 1994.
The game should be electric....and I will be rooting for the Hurricanes to finally unwrap their prize. Since Game 4 in Edmonton, Lord Stanley's Cup has followed the Canes to Raleigh....then to Edmonton....and now back to Raleigh in hopes of being revealed.
All we know now is that somebody will take that bad boy home Monday night.