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Is there anything better than a Seventh Game in the Stanley Cup Finals?

by Pete Weber / Nashville Predators
Terry Crisp is the NHL's King of Game 7's, posting a perfect 6-0 record as a player in NHL Playoff Game 7 match-ups.

This already has been an outstanding playoff season – with six series going the distance - as we prepare for the Stanley Cup Final Game Seven on Friday night in Detroit. In the preceding five match-ups that have gone the distance this season, the road team has won three times. Carolina won both at New Jersey and Boston, and Pittsburgh took the Washington Capitals out of the deciding game early. The home team prevailed with the Capitals coming back on the Rangers in the first round and the Red Wings eliminating Anaheim in the second.

Carolina’s two series winners were stunning – coming back with two goals against Marty Brodeur in the closing minutes was previously unthinkable. Scott Walker’s overtime goal against Boston was memorable. The Capitals were in a very difficult series with the Rangers, coming back from a 3-games-to-1 deficit.

My broadcast partner, Terry Crisp is (along with Montreal’s Alexei Kovalev) the King of Game Sevens. They each have played in six Game Sevens without a loss. However, only Kovalev has been on the winning side of the penultimate game in the finals (with the New York Rangers in 1994).

But now, the finals and this year’s will be the fifteenth decided in a seventh game. Depending upon your point of view, the memories can be thrilling or disappointing. In 1994 Rangers fans were thrilled when they could shut up the “1940” taunts by the Islanders’ fans, yet British Columbia fans were hoping their team would be the first to bring the Cup back to the West Coast since the 1925 Victoria Cougars. While Ruslan Fedotenko scored both goals to start the party in Tampa in 2004, the Edmonton Oilers were hoping to become the first eighth-seed to take win it all.

Game Sevens in the Finals
(road team winners in red)

4/18/42: at Toronto
Toronto 3, Detroit 1 (Toronto comes back from 0-3)

4/22/45: at Detroit
Toronto 2, Detroit 1

4/23/50: at Toronto

Detroit 4, NY Rangers 3 (2 OT) – MSG unavailable

4/16/54: at Detroit

Detroit 2, Montreal 1 (OT)

4/15/55: at Detroit

Detroit 3, Montreal 1

4/25/64: at Toronto

Toronto 4, Detroit 0

5/1/65: at Montreal

Montreal 4, Chicago 0

5/18/71: at Chicago

Montreal 3, Chicago 2

5/31/87: at Edmonton

Edmonton 3, Philadelphia 1

6/14/94: at New York

NY Rangers 3, Vancouver 2

6/9/01: at Denver

Colorado 3, New Jersey 1

6/9/03: at New Jersey

New Jersey 3, Anaheim 0

6/7/05: at Tampa

Tampa Bay 2, Calgary 1

6/19/06: at Raleigh

Carolina 3, Edmonton 1

6/12/09: at Detroit


Several players have been part of multiple Game Seven winners in the Finals. The record of four belongs to Red Kelly, the classy Detroit defenseman, who was switched to center ice upon joining the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kelly won his seventh games with the Red Wings of 1950, ’54 and ’55, then added another with the 1964 Maple Leafs.

Defensemen Bob Goldham and Marcel Pronovost each were part of three seventh game winners in the finals. Goldham with the 1942 Leafs (who came back from a 3-0 series deficit to win), teaming with Pronovost (who also won with the Wings in 1950) on the 1954 and ’55 winners.

In more contemporary times, we have a number of players who have turned the trick twice. There is a group of six who were teammates on both the 1987 Edmonton Oilers and the 1994 New York Rangers: Glenn Anderson, Jeff Beukeboom, Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish, Mark Messier, and Esa Tikkanen.

How about hoisting Lord Stanley after two consecutive seventh games with different teams and a locked-out season in-between? That’s what Corey Stillman did with the Lightning in 2004 and the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. His teammate on the Lightning, Nolan Pratt, also won with Ray Bourque and the 2001 Colorado Avalanche.

Three players have a chance to win their second Game Seven this time around: Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski (who won in 2003 with New Jersey), along with Pittsburgh forwards Ruslan Fedotenko (Tampa Bay in 2004) and Craig Adams (Carolina in 2006).
The best-of-seven format began in the 1938-39 season. Friday’s game will mark the fifteenth occasion that the Cup Final has required a seventh game. Two of those have been decided in overtime. Pete Babando won the 1950 Final for Detroit at 8:31 of the second overtime period over the New York Rangers in a game played at Toronto, with the circus keeping the Rangers out of their Madison Square Garden. Coach Tommy Ivan’s Red Wings won other Cup with Tony Leswick’s at 4:20 of overtime over the Montreal Canadiens in 1954.

Keep in mind, the NHL has varied in size over the years. From the time the NHL took over the Cup in 1925-26 through 1941-42, the Stanley Cup playoffs utilized five series to determine the winner. The so-called “Original Six” era, with just three series, prevailed from 1942-43 through the 1966-67 seasons.

Just an aside here: the NHL actually began with an “Original Four” of the Montreal Canadiens and Montreal Wanderers in 1917-18, along with the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Arenas.
When the league doubled in size (from six to twelve teams) in the summer of 1967, the playoffs changed along with that. From 1967-68 through 1973-74, seven series were contested; 1974-75 through 1978-79, eleven series. Beginning with 1979-80 season, after the NHL absorbed four teams from the World Hockey Association to the present, sixteen teams have made the playoffs, necessitating fifteen series. To win the Cup in the early portion then, it took 15 wins, until the league made all series best-of-seven in 1987.

History has made the home team heavy favorites in Game Seven. Only twice in the previous fourteen Stanley Cup finals series decided in a seventh game has the visiting team taken the Cup in the hosts’ rink. The Toronto Maple Leafs took the Cup in 1945 over the Red Wings at the Olympia in Detroit, and the Montreal Canadiens, with Henri Richard scoring twice from long range on Tony Esposito, beat the Blackhawks at Chicago Stadium in 1971.

There was one other occasion when both teams were “visitors.” In 1950, the New York Rangers could not play at Madison Square Garden thanks to the circus, and they lost the seventh game to Detroit at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

So, while history indicates the Penguins will have a difficult time, they have the chance to overcome that by playing well at Joe Louis Arena. Best of all, we have the chance to enjoy a rare pleasure!

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