- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2004

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay faced mixed odds against the Calgary Flames last night.

While 10 of the previous 12 teams to play host to Game7 of the finals won the Stanley Cup, 33 of the 45 finals between teams from the United States and Canada were won by teams north of the border. And since 1955, Canadian teams have won 22 of 25 such series. The exceptions were the New York Islanders’ triumphs over Vancouver in 1982 and Edmonton in 1983 and the New York Rangers’ 1994 conquest of the Canucks.

No matter the outcome, the Tampa Bay-Calgary matchup was the third seven-game affair in four years . There were just two such series in the previous 29 seasons, Edmonton over Philadelphia in 1987 and the Rangers over the Canucks in 1994.

Go with the star

History shows a star more often than not scores the game-winner in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Seven previous finals were decided by a Hall of Famer or a sure candidate for enshrinement: Toronto’s Babe Pratt (1945), Detroit’s Gordie Howe (1955), Toronto’s Andy Bathgate (1964), Montreal’s Jean Beliveau (1964) and Henri Richard (1971), Edmonton’s Jari Kurri (1987) and the still-active Mark Messier of the Rangers (1994).

There are exceptions, however. Detroit’s Tony Leswick (1954) was a solid player, though probably not as talented as Colorado’s Alex Tanguay (2001). Unless New Jersey’s Mike Rupp (2003) really develops in the next couple of years, he will go down as a forgettable hero along with Toronto’s Pete Langelle (1942), who scored just three career playoff goals, and Detroit’s Pete Babando (1950), who had only five. Leswick and Babando had the only overtime Game 7 Cup winners; Babando’s came in the second overtime.

Weird coincidence

Neither the Flames nor the Lightning can claim an advantage in experience in Game 7s. Both teams survived seven-game series to reach the finals; the Flames beat the Canucks in the Western Conference quarterfinals, and the Lightning beat the Flyers in the Eastern Conference finals. Before those series, each had combined for 21 man-games of Game 7 experience, adding up to 11-10 records.

Tampa Bay’s Dave Andreychuk had skated in 10 such games with a 3-7 mark. Last night was his 11th Game 7, tied for second in NHL history behind the 13 played by New Jersey’s Scott Stevens.

Stephane Yelle was Calgary’s leader at 4-4. The only other players who have been involved in more than two seventh games were the Flames’ Dave Lowry (1-4) and the Lightning’s Darryl Sydor (3-1).

Yelle, teammate Ville Nieminen and Tampa Bay’s Chris Dingman all won Game 7 of the finals with Colorado in 2001. Calgary’s Martin Gelinas lost Game 7 of the finals with Vancouver in 1994.

Flaming out

Calgary right wing Shean Donovan missed a second straight game with a leg injury. Mike Commodore, who was scratched for Games 5 and 6, also did not play last night.

Kipper a workhorse

Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff played a playoff-record 1,595 minutes through Game 6, breaking the mark set by Dallas’ Ed Belfour in 1999 and Vancouver’s Kirk McLean in 1994. Last night’s game was Calgary’s 26th this spring, tying the record set by Philadelphia in 1987.

Back on the ponds

Lightning coach John Tortorella said his players shouldn’t have been nervous last night.

“The most important thing is to allow yourself to play, not being … tentative. … When you’re 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 years old playing on those ponds announcing the game yourself, that’s the way they have to have it,” Tortorella said. “It’s an opportunity to express yourself.”

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