DETROIT – Game 7 heroes in the Stanley Cup Finals have come in all shapes and sizes as witnessed 14 times by the league since 1942.
There are your big stars coming through in the clutch – Alex Delvecchio scoring two goals and Gordie Howe one for Detroit's 3-1 win over Montreal in 1955. Henri Richard, already a Canadiens decorated hero, added to his legacy by scoring the winner against Chicago in 1971.
Mark Messier did likewise for the Rangers' historic triumph over Vancouver in 1994 to end all those 1940 chants. Renowned goalies Johnny Bower and Gump Worsley came up with shutouts for Toronto and Montreal, respectively in back-to-back seasons of 1964 and '65.
The trend recently has been for unlikely names to provide the big play – defenseman Frantisek Kaberle(notes) scored the game-winner for Carolina against Edmonton in 2006, the most recent seven-game finale. Everyone remembers Ray Bourque hoisting his first Stanley Cup in 2001 with Colorado after all those empty seasons in Boston, but the fact that Alex Tanguay(notes) figured in the scoring of all three goals against New Jersey is easy to overlook.
Pittsburgh has a Game 7 hero in its room. Forward Ruslan Fedotenko(notes), who has one goal in these Finals, scored the only two Tampa Bay would get against Calgary, but it was enough for a 2-1 victory and the Cup for the Lightning in 2004.
"If one of us is the hero that means we won the game," Lebda said. "We talked about it this morning. It was hard for us to remember who scored the goals in Game 6 of the Finals last year.
"Sometimes you're going to remember the Bobby Orr goal and things like that, but sometimes in the end it's a team game. It's taken every one of us in this locker room to get where we are and it's going to take every one of us to get a win Friday."
With that as a backdrop, here's a look at who is ready to grab the hero's mantle.
Sidney Crosby(notes): Hey, if he really doesn't want to be in that picture again, then this is his time. The modest production of one goal and three points in the first six games will all be forgotten if Crosby leads the Pens to the Cup.
Pavel Datsyuk(notes): Injured the first four games, Datsyuk was terrific in his Game 5 return and even better in Game 6 even if the Wings couldn't cash in on his marvelous set-ups. Is his third game the charm?
Marc-Andre Fleury(notes): Certainly he looks like a different goalie on the road in this series, but if Fleury can get less busy in net and bring his Game 6 confidence into Friday he could be the right man to steal one for the visitors.
Henrik Zetterberg(notes): He's somewhat of a ticking time bomb. He had two excellent scoring chances, courtesy of Datsyuk feeds, on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh. It's hard to keep a good man down, especially one who might be the Conn Smythe winner if the guys in red win.
Brian Rafalski(notes): No one has been on the winning side of deciding games more than the veteran Rafalski, who has survived five of six Game 7s. He's experienced and comfortable in this setting and that kind of attitude allows you to make plays.
Wouldn't that just figure?
Marian Hossa(notes): Realistically, Hossa belongs in a higher category than this. But he's battling himself as much as his former teammates. Then again, Hossa was on top of his game the last time they met in The Joe, so maybe on Friday he finally slips one or two behind Fleury.
Bill Guerin(notes): There's no guarantee Guerin will play in the NHL again. He was a force in Game 6, putting five of his game-high six shots on net in the opening period. He is clearly as motivated as anyone out there.
Unlikely, but don't be surprised
You just never know
Pascal Dupuis(notes): Not known for his offensive prowess, Dupuis has the most Game 7 goals (three) in the fewest games (two) of anyone on either roster. Yet he is also the only Penguin without a single point this postseason.
Absolutely no way
Hal Gill(notes), Brooks Orpik(notes), Mark Eaton(notes), Craig Adams(notes) and Brett Lebda: The Pens outnumber the Wings 4-1 in this group with three defense-first rearguards and a fourth-line winger versus a Red Wings' defenseman who is without a goal in 59 postseason games.
Nice story, won't happen
Petr Sykora(notes): Offensively gifted, Sykora finally got his chance Tuesday after getting scratched 14 straight games but instead of punching home a goal he unselfishly blocked a shot that resulted in a broken foot.
Chris Chelios(notes): What a great way to cap a quarter century of playing in the NHL by scoring a goal or providing the big assist. It won't happen, though, because the 47-year-old will be a healthy scratch for the seventh time in the series.
- Stanley Cup