Gretzky points to leadership, goaltending as deciding factors in Game 7 of Stanley Cup Final
The 2019 Stanley Cup Final is down to Game 7 between the host Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues.
It’s the first time since 2011, when the Bruins beat the Canucks in Vancouver, that the championship series has come down to a Game 7.
On Wednesday night, the rematch of the 1970 Cup Final comes to an end, and the nervousness leading into a game like this can only be described by someone who’s gone through it.
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Wayne Gretzky was a part of four Stanley Cup victories with the Edmonton Oilers, but the only Game 7 in a championship series he played in took place in 1987 against Ron Hextall and the Philadelphia Flyers.
“I think the players as a whole were anxious, but we had such great leadership with guys like Mark Messier and Jari Kurri, Kevin Lowe… that everyone kept each other calm and relaxed,” Gretzky explained to Bob Stauffer on 630 CHED’s Oilers Now.
Listen below: Wayne Gretzky speaks to Bob Stauffer on 630 CHED’s Oilers Now.
The Bruins are playing in their third Stanley Cup Final in the last eight years, and names like Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand have experienced all three. It’s a trove of experience that mirrors what the Oilers had in the late 80s, which Gretzky said can be a difference-maker under the pressure of a winner-takes-all game.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about the Boston Bruins.
“As the game went on, I think our maturity and experience of being in [a] Stanley Cup playoff really showed and took over,” Gretzky recalled of the May 31, 1987 showdown. “One of the things we took great pride in was our discipline and our experience. Fortunately, that came through as the game went on.”
Certainly Boston’s leadership core is one of the main reasons they’ve advanced this far through the 2019 playoffs.
Gretzky, meanwhile, is no stranger to the hockey scene in St. Louis, having played 18 games there in the 1995-96 season as the captain of the Blues.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in St. Louis, it’s a wonderful city,” Gretzky said. “Words can’t describe how exciting it is for sports fans and hockey people in St. Louis.”
This season, the Blues were in last place in the NHL standings in January before a remarkable — if not historical — turnaround led them to the brink of their first championship in franchise history. In fact, they’re the oldest active NHL franchise without a Stanley Cup victory. Could emerging from that adversity help the Blues to a victory on the road?
Watch below: Some recent Global News videos about the St. Louis Blues.
Goaltenders Tukka Rask of the Bruins and Jordan Binnington of the Blues have been storylines throughout the 2019 playoffs for their stellar play as well. That’s not unlike the battle between the Oilers’ Grant Fuhr and the Flyers’ Ron Hextall in 1987.
Joey Moss with Wayne Gretzky and the Stanley Cup.
“Ultimately, Grant Fuhr was the difference in Game 7,” Gretzky said of his former teammate, who turned aside 19 of 20 shots in the decisive game. “We really had a lot of belief in Grant Fuhr. Ron Hextall had been outstanding and he won the Conn Smythe [award] that year, but we also had so much confidence and faith in Grant that we were pretty excited about going into Game 7.”
Whether it’s leadership, goaltending or another factor that gets the job done, a group of teammates — much like Gretzky’s in the 80s — will have their names etched in history, some for the first time, and others for the last.
Regardless, June 12, 2019 will join May 31, 1987 as a day where the dreams of many were achieved, and the dreams of others were shattered.
The puck drops on 630 CHED at 6 p.m. Mountain Time.
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