Mike Rupp Credit: NHL Network

Brace yourself for what promises to be an unforgettable evening of hockey. 

On Monday night, the Edmonton Oilers will attempt to complete a comeback from a 3-0 series deficit against the Florida Panthers to win the Stanley Cup Final. The only time that has happened in the Final was in 1942 by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Oilers could also become the first Canadian team to win it all since the Montreal Canadiens in 1993.

To help us make sense of it all, we caught up with Mike Rupp of NHL Network. Rupp understands the pressure of a Stanley Cup Final Game 7. He scored the first goal in Game 7 of the New Jersey Devils’ 3-0 victory over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003. 

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Awful Announcing: What is it like to play in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final?

Mike Rupp: “You’re in your own world in the playoffs, and it just feels like it’s another level of that where everything stops. Like the rest of the world doesn’t exist. You know that you’ve got an opportunity to do what you’ve always dreamt about. You know that that Cup’s coming out tonight. That’s exciting. It’s one day. If you’re good, if you play well in that one day, you win the Cup. You can have the greatest memory of your career.”

How did it feel to score that goal?

“It was incredible. I was fortunate enough to play on the line I played on. We had a lot of looks in the game, and that one fortunately went in. Martin Brodeur was incredible, not allowing a goal. I remember, even when we were up by three, it never felt safe until the last minute when the fans were all on their feet counting down. ‘Oh, my gosh, this is going to happen.'”

How surprising has this Stanley Cup Final been?

“I’m really surprised. In the history of the game, we don’t see this very much. This is the most anticipated Stanley Cup Final game I can ever remember, and I’m 44. I don’t remember there being a more anticipated game in regards to just all the storylines. Connor McDavid, what he’s doing, breaking records. It’s mind-blowing what’s happening right now. In a Game 7, there’s enough drama. But now that a team went down three and then ran off three, it’s just really strange. It’s incredible.”

What will be the key for Game 7?

“The key for me is the goal-tending, which seems obvious, But that’s the one thing with Edmonton looking like the better team right now. Even in some of those games that they lost early in the series, you can argue they were the better team. (The Panthers) still have the secret weapon in Sergei Bobrovsky. If Sergei Brovrovsky can be Sergei Brovrovsky, he can steal this. To me, that’s where the X factor is. Stuart Skinner has been awesome. His numbers are incredible from Games 4 through 7 in the playoffs, but (the Panthers) still have the X factor.”

How has Edmonton turned things around?

“The speed, the speed is a problem. They’ve done a great job of finding ways to get out of their zone cleaner. By doing that, they gain speed in the neutral zone. I haven’t seen a playoff series with more breakaways for one team. In the playoffs, you shouldn’t give up one in all the playoffs, and there have been probably ten in the series. The speed of Edmonton has created a lot of havoc for Florida.”

As the coach, what does Paul Maurice tell the Panthers?

“I think it’s just more of making sure everybody’s head’s in the right space. In this process, the way that the last three games have gone, you can lose sight of who you are. This is the Florida Panthers. They’re the most consistent, throwback, old-school, kind of punch-in-the-mouth team. It’s ‘Hey. Let’s not forget who we are.’ When Florida’s at their best, that’s who they are. They’re lunch pail. ‘No one believes in us.’ An underdog. That’s got to be the message psychologically for Florida.”

What kind of moment is this for NHL where many casual sports fans will tune in?

“I think it’s awesome. We’ve got the best player in the world in Connor. He’s playing in Edmonton. It’s Mountain time. We don’t get to see him a lot because of the normal hustle and bustle of fans in the East. With the Stanley Cup Final, people are starting to notice who he is. You’re starting to see his greatness. That’s great for the league because we’ve watched this league be carried by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin for years.”

Can you tell me a little about the NHL Now: Players Only segment you do?

“It was more our producers that came up with it, Steve Tronzano, who’s our main hockey guy here at the network. We were just kind of talking about getting a different segment. We’re very fortunate to have guys who are just done playing the game: Devan Dubnyk, Jason Demers, Brian Boyle, Cory Schneider, and Thomas Hickey. These guys aren’t that far removed, so they’ve got relationships with some of (the current) guys. It’s fun when you get them going and talk to them about anything other than hockey. We know as players the questions that you’re receptive to and the ones you’re not. We’ve seen players really open up.”

Do you have a fun Stanley Cup trophy memory?

“We won it with New Jersey. Our biggest rival was the Rangers. We were in New York City, going on David Letterman with the trophy. We stopped at Madison Square Garden and ran up the steps with the Cup and our Devils jerseys on. It was just a little shot to the Rangers at the time. We won. We were kind of the younger brother in that area.”

What’s your Game 7 prediction?

“I said before that whoever won Game 5 would win the series because I just thought the momentum and the pressure would be shifted. I still think Edmonton. Bobrovsky’s going to have to steal that one for Florida to win. Right now everything’s pointing that that’s not going to happen.”

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.