Terry Crisp insists that the seventh game of a playoff series is no different than any other postseason contest.
Then again, his experience as a player in those all-or-nothing match-ups is different than virtually anyone else who ever has been a part of the Stanley Cup tournament.
Until a year ago, the Nashville Predators’ color analyst held the NHL record for most Game 7’s played without a defeat — six — by himself. Montreal forward Alexei Kovalev matched him at 6-0 in 2008 when the Canadiens defeated Boston in the decisive game of their first-round series.
“When you have a Game 7, it’s no different than a Game 1, 2 or 3,” Crisp said. “You might think about it a little when you’re driving to the game or when you hit the dressing room because you know one of two things are going to happen — you’re either going to win and advance or you’re going to lose and go home.
“Once the puck drops and you start playing, though, it feels like just another game.”
Players for the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins will test that theory Friday when they meet in the Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals (7 p.m., NBC) in Detroit.
It is the fifth time in seven years the championship series has included the maximum number of contests.
“Maybe when there are three or four minutes to play, if you’re losing you start to think, ‘This is it,’” Crisp said. “Honestly, though, if you’re a player, it’s just not that big a deal.”
Crisp, however, never participated in the seventh game of a Cup final.
As a member of the St. Louis Blues he survived a pair of Game 7s during the early rounds in 1968 and another one in 1972. With the Philadelphia Flyers he faced one each in three straight years (1974-76), the first two of which led to the Flyers eventually winning the Cup.
He also won a championship in 1989 as head coach of the Calgary Flames, which makes him one of only 14 people in NHL history to have his name engraved on the trophy as a player and a coach.
The Flames’ title run started that year with a seven-game series against Vancouver, and Game 7 was not decided until overtime.
“Now as a coach, you’re sweating it, particularly if you’re the favored team,” he said. “You’re just thinking to yourself, ‘We’re supposed to be out of here.
“I remember that game with Vancouver more than I remember any Game 7 as a player. We had won the President’s Trophy and all of that and were supposed to win that series easily. The Canucks hit a post in overtime, they had a breakaway and one other big chance in overtime. Once we won that one, we were never really pressed the rest of the way.”
Regardless of who wins Friday, Crisp says the game — and this year’s championship series — likely will be remembered by many, and for all the right reasons.
“It’s some of the best hockey I’ve seen in years,” he said. “The referees are letting them play, and you’re seeing the skill but …they’re also hitting and banging and knocking each other to hell. Both teams have talent, depth and leadership.”
Neither, however, has a player with his Game 7 credentials.