TIME FOR TALK IS OVER AS GAME 7 APPROACHES
RALEIGH, N.C. -- There really isn't much left to talk about for the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers.
The Stanley Cup will be awarded Monday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio) to the winner of Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. For the third-straight season, it will come down to the last possible game of the postseason to determine an NHL champion.
So, who has the momentum? Home teams are 11-2 in Stanley Cup Final history. In all rounds, home teams are 74-44 in Game 7. Those numbers favor the Hurricanes, who will be greeted by the warm embrace of their loyal fans Monday night.
The Oilers have their own brand of momentum brewing, trying to become the second team in Stanley Cup Final history to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win the Cup. The celebrated 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only team to have made the ultimate comeback.
"I think it's real important that we show up, play our game," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said when quizzed about whether the home team had the edge. "We're not going to change anything. We tried to make a couple of tweaks for Game 6. I think regardless of what you try and do, if you are not skating and competing as well as the other team is you are going to find it difficult to be successful. And really those were two areas where we were lacking. We're back in our building where we have had a lot of success. Our fans will be here. There will be a lot of energy. Obviously, everybody knows what is at stake. Season is over (Monday) night. Our guys will be ready to have some fun."
Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said his team will have to improve upon a dominant Game 6 effort to win the Cup.
"Well, I think we have to be," MacTavish said when asked if his team has to be better. "It's the game of hockey and in the game of hockey you really have to dominate the opposition to ensure a win. And they are going to try and do the same to us, but we're going to try and get better and improve upon our game (Saturday night). Neither team wants to let a bad break or bad bounce lose a game for them, so you have to have a dominant performance and both teams will be looking for that. We'll be looking for a similar performance."
"We always think we can play better," Oilers forward Raffi Torres agreed. "I think we got them right where we want them, but at the same time we can't get overexcited out there because they are that dangerous out there. I thought at some points during the game we weren't getting the puck out of our zone and you could see how it cost us they were getting the pucks to the net and one bounced the opposite way it could be a different game. So I think we'll just try and carry the same type of game."
Laviolette is looking for a lot more from his team, after two admittedly sup-par performances saw the Hurricanes see their series advantage slip away.
"We were pretty lousy on all aspects," Laviolette said. "That's yesterday's news. We have got a big game to look forward to definitely. Didn't have our energy in our legs, in our skating, all the things that have won our trademark for us all season long. I think it's important we get back to that first of all, try and execute our game plan a little better."
One important step for the Hurricanes would be to up the energy level, which has seemed to tail off to a degree, be it from attrition or the number of games played this season.
"It's hard to explain that, honestly," Laviolette said of the seeming lack of energy. "Some nights you are fatigued for whatever the reason may be. Maybe it had to do with residual effect of Game 5. I am not making excuses; no excuses to be made this late in the season. But for whatever reason, we didn't skate very well. They definitely skated better than we did. The game is about skating, about the puck, and the best way to get it is to skate or to keep it is to skate. And we, just like I said, two areas I thought that we were missing were the skating and the competitiveness."
MacTavish expects to see a Hurricanes team that is excited about the opportunity of Game 7, not one depressed by the lopsided Game 6 loss.
"I know when we got beat 5-0 in Game 2 that it really ... it's an embarrassment. In losing that game, we shook it off fairly quickly and were able to respond in Game 3. They are not here because they are wall flowers and you know that they are going to come out with their best effort of the playoffs and it's going to be up to us to combat that. I don't think there's a residual effect negatively for them going into the next game and maybe just the opposite as you alluded to there might be a positive motivator for them."
"Well, Game 5 was tough to swallow," Laviolette admitted. "In overtime we were set up to win it on our power play and it didn't happen, so it was really ... it was a tough one to get over. Maybe the toughest that we have been through. And then Game 6 was just terrible.
"I guess, obviously, it is a one-and-done for both sides," he said. "That's why I guess you look back at the season. You try and find a game somewhere in mid-November that was on the road and was five games and seven nights that you were able to come back and win and get the points that you need for home ice advantage somewhere, you know, it's in our building. This is where we want to be."
But make no mistake about it, both teams expect to put their best game on the ice in search of the ultimate prize.
"I would say don't count us out," Laviolette said. "It's one game. It's a one-game shot. We have won an awful lot of hockey games this year, more than anybody else in the NHL.
"This team knows how to win. They know how to win on home ice. You know, people might have counted us out after two losses to Montreal at home, and that was a mistake. I guess we can't control what people think or what people say, but we know there's a lot of confidence in the locker room to win hockey games.
"When we do it tomorrow night we'll do it for each other."
"We all talk about belief, Oilers winger Ryan Smyth said. "We all talk about urgency. The will to win and never quitting and keeping positive through the whole situation. And, you know, like I said before, we have given ourselves an opportunity to play in Game 7. And, you know, it's few and far between to get to a place like this in your career, so we'll obviously make the most of it and we'll do our best to put our names on the Cup."