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Ice Hockey: No happy ending for Draisaitl: Panthers win Stanley Cup

Ice Hockey: No happy ending for Draisaitl: Panthers win Stanley Cup
Ice Hockey: No happy ending for Draisaitl: Panthers win Stanley Cup

There is nothing more brutal in North American professional sports than a defeat in the seventh game of a final series. Leon Draisaitl reacted accordingly emotionally to missing out on the NHL title.

As the Florida Panthers were still celebrating their first championship on the ice, Leon Draisaitl stood in a room next to the dressing room with red eyes and tried to describe the biggest disappointment of his career. Three defeats at the start, then three wins and in the seventh game of the final series the chance for the longed-for triumph – only to then lose 1:2 and wake up brutally from the great ice hockey dream despite numerous chances.

“I haven’t felt much worse, to be honest,” said the Edmonton Oilers attacker on Monday evening (local time) in the catacombs of the arena north of Miami. “It hurts a lot right now. But I’m enormously proud of the team.”

Draisaitl refuses to comment on injuries and his own future

Physically battered and visibly empty at the end, Draisaitl also had nothing left in the tank to force an extension. One finger is apparently broken, and Oilers observers assume there are other injuries – Draisaitl did not want to comment on his physical condition. “We don’t need to talk about that now,” he said simply – and also refused to comment on his own future.

While the Panthers celebrated redemption one year after their final defeat to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Oilers slipped into a painful summer break with question marks. It is unclear whether Draisaitl will be involved again next season in the attempt to win the Oilers’ sixth title. The 28-year-old Cologne native’s contract expires after the next season. If Edmonton does not want to risk losing one of the league’s best professionals for nothing, both parties must agree to continue their collaboration in the coming months – or the striker may end up wearing a different jersey for the first time in his NHL career.

Before these discussions, however, there will probably be a few days of grieving. “I think it will hurt for a while, in any case. Then just focus on the next season,” said Draisaitl after the bitter end of the season in Florida, before he went back to the locker room. The Panthers’ music blared from the ice.

Oilers miss a chapter of sports history

With a fourth win, the Oilers would have made sports history and become only the second team in NHL history to win the series after three defeats at the start of the Stanley Cup Finals. The only time the Toronto Maple Leafs managed this was 82 years ago. The dry spell for Canadian teams would also have been over; the last time the NHL champions came from outside the USA was 31 years ago.

The guests quickly countered the 0:1 by Carter Verhaeghe in the 5th minute, and Mattias Janmark equalized in the 7th minute. In the second period, the Oilers had the puck more often and for longer, but were hardly able to generate any clear chances due to their superiority. A counterattack finally resulted in a saveable shot by Sam Reinhart, which rocked the arena in Florida (36th minute).

The Oilers struggled, worked hard and in some situations simply didn’t have the necessary luck. Draisaitl, visibly injured and apparently avoiding tough challenges, was unable to help his team decisively. The same goes for superstar Connor McDavid, who, despite being on the losing team, was nevertheless deservedly voted the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Only four German professionals have managed to have their name engraved on the Stanley Cup: Uwe Krupp (1996 and 2002), Dennis Seidenberg (2011), Tom Kühnhackl (2016 and 2017) and Nico Sturm (2022). Draisaitl has the personal awards as most valuable player of a season and top scorer. But the longed-for title has so far eluded him.

Source: Stern

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