Nothing better for sports fans than a Game 7

The way that the SIJHL final, not to mention the regular season and “showdown” series, has gone between the Fort Frances Lakers and Wisconsin Wilderness, it sort of seemed destined the title was going to come down to a seventh game.
That is exactly what will be taking place tonight in Spooner, Wis. as the squads take to the ice at the Northwest Sports Complex in a winner-take-all affair to determine this year’s SIJHL champion—and also decide which club will be heading to the Dudley Hewitt Cup in Thunder Bay next week.
With apologies to Lakers’ fans, who surely have bitten off their nails over the last two games as they watched their side fail to cash in on two chances to capture the Bill Salonen Cup, there is no better way for this season to come to an end.
Quite frankly, the seventh game is the most dramatic way for any playoff series to conclude, whether it be through hockey, baseball, or basketball.
Granted, there are other exciting ways to have a season come to an end, such as the “March Madness” tournament in U.S. college basketball, but there is nothing like having that long build-up over six games to set up for a passionate final.
However, despite all that, sometimes a seventh game just doesn’t turn out to be that memorable.
For instance, other than the riots that took place after the fact, how much do you remember from Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins?
Personally, I’ve always hemmed and hawed over the playoff structure itself. I like to think that how you perform during the regular season should count for something, which is the case in the domestic soccer league over in Europe and in most forms of auto racing.
But with the crowds that have come out to the Ice For Kids Arena during the last three home games, and the quality of play during the final up to this point, I’m learning to understand and appreciate more and more the power that the playoffs bring.
Here’s hoping tonight’s game in Spooner can live up to the hype, no matter who comes out on top.
• • •
Speaking of the post-season, tonight also marks the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which will have nearly everyone’s attention across Canada for the next two months.
It’s easy to pick the usual suspects as the favourite to win it all, such as the Bruins, Penguins, Red Wings, and Canucks. But there is one team that stands out among all of the rest that I wouldn’t want to meet up with in a dark alley, let alone a hockey rink.
The Nashville Predators.
Okay, the Predators don’t have the star-power like the Penguins have with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, or the proven track record like the Red Wings over recent years. But what general manager David Poile has built over the last 14 years is nothing short of impressive.
The team is known for its solid defensive core with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter leading the way, not to mention former Team Canada world junior captain Ryan Ellis. But their goaltending might be the most underrated in the entire league, with Pekka Rinne proving unstoppable nearly every night.
Offensively, the Predators are very rarely among the top scorers in the league but their forwards, such as Martin Erat and David Legwand, always are solid and can be relied upon to get the goals the team needs.
However, the team bolstered itself up front at the trade deadline by acquiring Andrei Kostitsyn (who again is playing with his brother, Sergei) and Paul Gaustad, in addition to welcoming back Alexander Radulov from Russia, where he has been lighting up the KHL for the last four seasons.
The biggest constant for the Predators, though, is head coach Barry Trotz, who has been with the team since its inception in 1998. He always has maintained a solid team in a division that features both the Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.
While the Predators have a very tough first-round match-up ahead of them against the Red Wings, if they are able to make it through that series, I think Nashville will very tough to stop the rest of the way and just might hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup come June.
It’s not necessarily the sexiest pick in the world, but how often do those clear-cut favourites turn out to win it all?

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