Game 7. No two words in all of sport due more to raise the hair on you neck, as been said too many times before. No matter what sport it is, whether baseball, basketball or hockey, Game 7 matters because it's winner take all, which most other sports have because it's one game.
The NHL is going to have its fifth Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final this decade tonight, but it hasn't been since 1994 when the league was in such good shape. The playoffs this season have been the best since the aforementioned '94 Playoffs and it's fitting that the NHL's renaissance would have the Pittsburgh Penguins, home of the face of the league in Sidney Crosby, a superstar in Evegni Malkin who's made the leap and a former first-pick goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury reaching his potential in this game, facing the most recognizable and successful American team and current dynasty, the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings with Nick Lidstrom, Chris Osgood, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen, players who have been among the best at their positions for as long as the early 90s (Lidstrom) to as recent as last year (Franzen and Osgood).
And there is the factor of Marian Hossa, who chose to sign a one-year deal with the Wings after losing last year with the Pens, thinking he would have a better chance winning in Detroit, now enters this game playing a terrible series without a goal and really hasn't done much this postseason except a couple particularly good games. This game will determine if his decision was wise or foolish. It would be an embarassment for him if the Penguins skate around with the Cup and the ultimate egg-on-the-face moment in sports history.
Home-ice has been everything in this series, particularly in Detroit as Fleury has had trouble with the live boards the Joe Louis Arena has. Crosby has been unable to avoid Zetterberg in Motown and has been held scoreless on the road. I guess you might think this is a bad omen for Pittsburgh, but here's a good one. The Penguins get to win the Cup in the same city as the Steelers won their first Super Bowl in 26 years as Bill Cowher shed his choker label and Jerome Bettis won at home.
Another thing to consider, the Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP) is still up for grabs. If Pittsburgh wins, Malkin, Crosby or Fleury could each win. As for Detroit, Zetterberg, Osgood, Franzen and Datsyuk (despite missing six games) have a chance. Could Malkin steal the Conn Smythe in a loss? He does have 35 points, most in sixteen years, and a three-point night in a losing effort could get the vote to go to him. Remember, this award is for playoff achievement, not just Final and it's gone to a losing player five times before.
So get ready for the biggest NHL game since 1994, hopefully you won't be too indifferent to care about this. I know the Yankees and Mets play each other tonight, but after watching them flame out against their rivals, you should instead watch two teams who have come to play every night (except Pittsburgh's Game 5 stinkfest). I know it's Friday night and there's always a movie to see or a club to dance at, but instead watch this game, either at home or at a bar. And make sure that bar doesn't splash all their TV's with Yanks-Mets. Enjoy.