In my mind, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are the best “sports theatre” available. The atmosphere, the intensity, the drama is all there. Now, the National Hockey League has been blessed with two Conference Finals that will go seven games for the first time since the year 2000. This is really something special.
The Nashville Predators have not been involved in a Game Seven yet. In my three seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, we did not have that experience either. In Buffalo, where I spent most of my time prior to my move to Nashville in September of 1998, there were but a relative few. In 45 years, the Sabres are 1-6 all-time in series that go the distance:
- 1983 L, 2-3 OT at Boston (Bruins led series, 3-2)
- 1992 L, 2-3 at Boston (Bruins led series, 3-1)
- 1994 L, 1-2 at New Jersey (Sabres won Game 6 in 4 OT)
- 1997 W, 3-2 OT vs. Ottawa (Ottawa led series, 3-2)
- 2001 L, 2-3 OT vs. Pittsburgh (Sabres led series, 3-2)
- 2006 L, 2-4 at Carolina (Sabres took Game 6 in OT)
- 2011 L, 2-5 at Philadelphia (Sabres led series, 3-2)
Each one of those series has special story lines as noted. The 1997 series with Ottawa was special to me – as I was calling the games on radio and it included my one and only Game Seven.
The drama was all there. Goaltender Dominik Hasek quit on his team in Game Three, sprinting off the ice after a goalmouth collision, turning things over to Steve Shields, who had all of 15 games of NHL experience at that point in his career. Shields finished with a 3-2 win in that contest, but then the Senators (in their first playoff series since the NHL’s return to Ottawa), took the next two games, 1-0 in overtime at Ottawa and 4-1 at Buffalo. Andrei Trefilov finished Game Five for Shields.
The pressure was on for Game Six at Ottawa. The Sabres had won the Northeast Division Title that season and would eventually take home a lot of postseason hardware from the NHL Awards Show that June in Toronto.
In that sixth game, Shields turned in a masterpiece – a 3-0 shutout of the Senators, setting up the fourth Game Seven in Sabres history. The Sabres tied the game on a face-off play involving Derek Plante and Alexei Yashin. Trying to pull the draw to the end boards, Plante tied up Yashin’s stick and the puck ended up blooping over goaltender Ron Tugnutt into the Ottawa net.
That eventually helped the game into overtime and here/”hear” is how it ended.
Game Seven is truly special – enjoy the wealth of them that has been bestowed upon us this weekend!