Four-straight seasons, four-straight years with home-ice advantage and four-straight playoff exits. That’s the Anaheim Ducks’ recent history with Game 7s, something you’ve surely heard by now. And given the Ducks’ tough relationship with Game 7s, one would imagine there’s a significant amount of pressure facing coach Randy Carlyle’s club as they get set for a home tilt against the Edmonton Oilers in the deciding contest of their second-round series.
The Ducks’ Game 7 struggles date back to 2012-13 and a date with the Detroit Red Wings. In that series, the second-place Ducks were one win from downing the seventh-place Red Wings when Detroit won the final two games of the series to send Anaheim packing. That was the start of an awful trend for the Ducks.
The following season, it was the rival Los Angeles Kings who sent the Ducks home early, winning Game 7 in Anaheim after the Ducks had earned a 3-2 series lead after five games. In 2014-15, it was a meeting with the Blackhawks that led to the Ducks’ dismantling. Again with a 3-2 series lead, Anaheim watched it disappear as Chicago went on to a seven-game victory. But the most disappointing defeat of all came just last season. With the Ducks on the cusp of moving on to the second round heading into Game 6 against the Predators, Anaheim dropped two-straight to a wild-card Nashville team. The series loss, which marked the fourth Game 7 defeat in a row, cost coach Bruce Boudreau his job.
So, Wednesday night in Anaheim is a chance for the Ducks to exorcise some playoff demons.
But don’t go thinking Anaheim is the only team that has had to deal with Game 7 suffering. While the Ducks’ struggles are the most recent, there are several clubs who’ve had similar difficulty picking up victories with the series on the line.
Red Wings lose four Game 7s in seven years
Few modern era teams have experienced as much success as the Red Wings, but as the glory days wound down and the quarter-century long playoff streak came to end, Detroit got far too familiar with losing in seven games.
The tough times in Game 7s began as the Red Wings’ window started to close, and that first loss was memorable. In the 2009 final against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a rematch of the 2008 final, Detroit took a 3-2 series lead with a chance to win a second-straight Stanley Cup. They dropped Games 6 and 7, though, as the Sidney Crosby-led Penguins won their first title.
The next painful defeat was delayed as the Red Wings were Game 7 victors the very next year. But beginning with 2010-11, three of Detroit’s next five seasons ended with Game 7 losses. First came the second-round loss against the San Jose Sharks in 2010-11, which was followed by a second-round loss at the hands of the rival Chicago Blackhawks in 2012-13. The next year saw an earlier exit, but by 2014-15, Detroit was again ousted in seven games, this time in the first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bruins’ Stanley Cup bookended by crushing defeats
It’s hard to feel too bad for a team when there’s some success right in the middle of it, but things weren’t always so sunny in Boston. Matter of fact, there were some years when Bruins fans might have felt they had a similar curse to that of the Ducks. And it all started against — you guessed it — the Montreal Canadiens.
In 2007-08, the Bruins were making their first playoff appearance in two seasons and squaring off against the rival Canadiens made it a spirited affair. One the Bruins would eventually lose, though, as the Claude Julien era began with an ugly 5-0 Game 7 defeat in Round One. The next season, Boston would sweep Montreal in the first round, but a date with the Carolina Hurricanes wasn’t as easy to handle. It took seven games, but Carolina got through, and the following year it was the same story: second round, seven games and another loss. This time it was the Philadelphia Flyers, though, in what was one of the rare “reverse sweeps” in NHL history.
But that was all leading up to success. In 2010-11, the Bruins won three Game 7s in one post-season en route to the Stanley Cup. However, the domination of seventh games was short lived. Two of the next three years ended with Game 7 losses, first in 2011-12 at the hands of the Washington Capitals and then again in 2013-14 to the Canadiens, making for a run of five Game 7 exits in seven years. Luckily, two Stanley Cup final appearances and one championship in between helped soften the blow.
Growing pains see Senators lose three-straight Game 7s
In the early 2000s, the Senators were building towards something. However, despite their always competitive nature and the fact they were seemingly always on the brink of breaking through, Ottawa could never quite get over the hump when a playoff series came down to make-or-break territory.
The first of a series of three Game 7 exits in a row came in 2001-02 during the greatest days of the Battle of Ontario. Having been swept by the Maple Leafs one year earlier, the Senators entered the series with revenge on their minds and were a win away from getting it following a 4-2 win in Game 5. But Ottawa missed their chance to put Toronto away in Game 6 and it came back to bite them in Game 7. In 2002-03, the Senators would make it all the way to the conference final, but again faced a dreaded Game 7 where they were downed by the New Jersey Devils. And the Senators would have their high hopes squashed for a third time in a row when, in 2003-04, the Maple Leafs took provincial bragging rights once again, claiming their first-round series with the Senators in seven games.
By 2006-07, Ottawa had figured it out, fighting their way to the Stanley Cup final for the first and only time in franchise history. Up against a powerful Ducks team, though, the Senators were defeated in five games.
Avalanche window closes with each successive Game 7 loss
Images of Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy dance through your head when you think of the late-90s and early-2000s Avalanche. But the truth is that even with a star-studded roster, Colorado got used to crushing defeats. Matter of fact, if not for a seven-game Stanley Cup final victory over the Devils in 2000-01, the Avalanche might be thought of as the only team whose bad luck in Game 7s comes close to matching that of the Ducks.
The start of the Game 7 misfortune was in 1997-98 as the second seeded Avalanche, two years removed from their first Stanley Cup, matched up with the seventh-ranked Edmonton Oilers. It was supposed to be a walk for Colorado and the Avalanche sped out to a 3-1 series lead. But then came a 3-1 loss in Game 5, 2-0 loss in Game 6 and, the heartbreaker, a 4-0 loss in Game 7. That kicked off a string of Game 7 exits for a team that was so very promising.
In 1998-99 and 1999-00, Colorado got to the conference final, but the Avalanche were sent home in seven games both years by the Dallas Stars. Then, in 2001-02, the Avalanche would again come short in the conference final, this time to the Red Wings in seven games. And the loss to Detroit was the precursor to one of their most shocking playoff exits ever. In 2002-03, Colorado was upset in seven games by the Minnesota Wild, who were in only their third season as a franchise.
All told, Colorado was eliminated in Game 7s five times in six years, with the victory over the New Jersey Devils as the only season between 1997-98 and 2002-03 that didn’t end with a Game 7 loss.
Capitals can’t close out a series during high-flying era
The Capitals have been known as a team with tons of potential that has never quite been able to get the job done throughout the Alex Ovechkin era, and the reason that narrative surrounds Washington dates back to 2007-08. It was the first kick at the playoff can during Ovechkin’s tenure, and, given that it’s on this list, you can guess how it ended.
In Game 7 at home against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Capitals dropped the contest in gut-wrenching fashion on an overtime goal. It was a learning experience for the Capitals, though, and it helped them get through a Game 7 in the first round in 2008-09. Trouble is the second round in 2008-09 saw Washington drop another Game 7 on home ice, this time to the Pittsburgh Penguins. And then again, in 2009-10, the Capitals’ season ended in yet another Game 7 loss on home ice, this time as the Jaroslav Halak-led Montreal Canadiens booted Washington from the playoffs. In 2010-11, the Capitals’ season would end much swifter in the post-season at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But Game 7 would rear its ugly head again in 2011-12 and set the stage for the New York Rangers to become the Capitals’ most despised playoff rival. Three times in four seasons the two sides met in the playoffs and each year had a similar ending. In 2011-12, New York ended Washington’s season with a Game 7 win in the second round. In 2012-13, the Rangers downed the Capitals in seven games in the first round. And in 2014-15, after a one year playoff hiatus for Washington, the Capitals were back up against the Rangers in the second round, but nothing had changed. Seven games later, it was New York moving on and Washington heading home.
For those scoring at home, the Capitals’ Game 7 futility made for six Game 7 exits in eight seasons.
Washington has a chance Wednesday night to ensure a similar streak of Game 7 defeats doesn’t get new life, however. The Capitals will get set to take on the Penguins in a winner-take-all contest for the right to head to the Eastern Conference final. With a win, the Capitals would head to the third round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, while a loss would mark the seventh time in 10 years Washington’s season ended with a Game 7 defeat.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.