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Panthers GM Keenan Knows Game 7s Too Well

Monday, 06.19.2006 / 12:00 AM ET / News
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Panthers GM Keenan Knows Game 7s Too Well

Brian Biggane/Palm Beach Post

Tonight will mark the third Game 7 in the past three Stanley Cup Finals, but it's still a rarity. It will be only the 14th Game 7 in a Final since the NHL went to the best-of-seven format in 1938.

Between 1972 to 2000, there were only two such games. Panthers General Manager Mike Keenan coached in both of them.

Keenan, who coached in four Stanley Cup Finals with Philadelphia, Chicago and the New York Rangers, came up a 3-1 loser with the Flyers against Edmonton in Game 7 in 1987, and a 3-2 winner with New York against Vancouver in 1994.

"What it showed me was how incredibly difficult it is to win a Stanley Cup," Keenan said Sunday as he looked ahead to tonight's Carolina-Edmonton showdown at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.

"Going into a game like that, it's very exciting," he added. "The final game of an interesting journey."

Philadelphia had lost to Edmonton in five games in the 1985 Final, then lost goaltender Pelle Lindbergh in a fatal car crash that off-season. After missing the playoffs in 1986, they made it back against the same Oilers in 1987 with rookie Ron Hextall in net.

"We lost a number of players to injury. Tim Kerr, our leading scorer, was out, and Dave Poulin was playing with broken ribs, which shows it's a series of attrition. Edmonton had some guys out too, but all the Oilers' key guys were fine, and almost all of them - (Wayne) Gretzky, (Mark) Messier, (Glenn) Anderson, (Grant) Fuhr - were in their prime."

Keenan said he still recalls the feeling he had when he got on the plane back home after the 3-1 loss.

"It was just the feeling that these players had been cheated by not having the opportunity to play as a healthy group.".

Seven years later, Keenan would get another shot, this time with the Rangers. Like Carolina this year, New York would jump to a 3-1 lead and had the opportunity to close out the series at home in Game 5. Was Keenan as confident of a victory as the Hurricanes seemed to be last week?

"I wasn't, but our fans certainly were," he said. "What I remember is I was really nervous they were selling (championship) T-shirts on the street, just assuming we would win. They'd done the same thing years before in Edmonton, and I'd bought one and brought it into the locker room to use as motivation for our guys."

Anyone who has seen highlights of that 3-2 Rangers win will recall the joyful celebration at the final horn.

The victory made Keenan a celebrity in New York; even 12 years later, he still gets a hero's welcome on the streets whenever he returns.

"Nobody forgets championship teams, no matter what city you win them in," he said. "New York is certainly the ultimate in terms of exposure, but any city is that way. I won a (AHL) championship in Rochester and it's still that way for me there, too.

"Maybe I've got something special going in New York state, I don't know."

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 79 15 39 10 54
J. Jokinen 81 8 36 -2 44
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
A. Ekblad 81 12 27 12 39
B. Boyes 78 14 24 11 38
A. Barkov 71 16 20 -4 36
J. Hayes 72 19 16 -4 35
B. Campbell 82 3 24 4 27
B. Pirri 49 22 2 6 24
D. Bolland 53 6 17 4 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 28 19 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 6 7 2 .892 3.01
 
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