Ice Hockey: Stanley Cup up close: Draisaitl in NHL finals

Ice Hockey: Stanley Cup up close: Draisaitl in NHL finals

Leon Draisaitl is in the NHL finals for the first time in his career – now the Cologne native wants to fulfill his dream of winning the Stanley Cup. He is writing a fantastic comeback story with Edmonton.

As Leon Draisaitl sat in the press conference long after the game, exhausted but happy, the euphoric chants of the fans were still blaring from outside. Germany’s ice hockey star reached the NHL final with the Edmonton Oilers after a tough fight and is aiming for the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career.

“Having this chance is a dream. To do it at home, for this city, for the fans and also for ourselves, that’s great. But we have bigger dreams and goals,” said the Oilers’ striker after the 2-1 (2-0, 0-0, 0-1) home win against the Dallas Stars. The Canadians won the semi-final series in the “best of seven” format 4-2 and secured the Western Conference title.

Draisaitl is still four wins away from the big triumph in the final against the Florida Panthers – he can become the sixth German professional whose name will be engraved on the legendary trophy, which weighs around 20 kilograms.

Sixth German name on Stanley Cup?

The Cologne native has been playing for the Oilers since 2014 and has set many records. But only after ten years and many seasons of disappointment is he now in the finals. “We have many painful years behind us. We still have a long way to go,” said the 28-year-old.

He is the eighth German in the NHL final after Uwe Krupp, Christoph Schubert, Dennis Seidenberg, Christian Ehrhoff, Tom Kühnhackl, Philipp Grubauer and Nico Sturm. The most important club trophy in ice hockey has so far been won by Krupp (1996/2002), Seidenberg (2011), Kühnhackl (2016/2017), Grubauer (2018) and Sturm (2022).

The team from Canada last made it to the finals of the North American Ice Hockey League in the 2005/06 season. And this season, too, it didn’t look like it would happen. The Oilers got off to a bad start, winning only two of their first eleven games of the season and replacing their coach.

Famous Oilers comeback

The turnaround came under new head coach Kris Knoblauch. Edmonton is only the third team in NHL history, after Toronto (1958/59) and St. Louis (2018/19), to reach the finals despite being ten points behind a playoff spot at one point in the regular season.

“We always knew what a good team we actually are,” said Draisaitl about reaching the final. “We put in a lot of work and overcame some adversities; we had so many ups and downs this season.”

In the sixth duel with the favored Stars, the Oilers took a 2-0 lead after the first period. After just over four minutes, Draisaitl served his congenial strike partner Connor McDavid on the power play to take the lead. Zach Hyman was also successful from the power play. Edmonton goalkeeper Stuart Skinner only had to reach behind him in the middle of the final period and parried 34 shots on his goal. “It feels great to be in this position. We’ve always believed in ourselves and in each other,” said McDavid (27), who has been playing alongside Draisaitl since 2015.

Edmonton also outsiders in the final

The opponents in the final are the Panthers. Last year’s finalists also won the semifinals against the New York Rangers with a 4:2 victory. The team from Florida has the home advantage thanks to their better record in the main round, and the first game will take place on Saturday in Sunrise. A possible – all-decisive – seventh duel would also take place in Florida.

Source: Stern

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