Boston. St. Louis. One more game. It literally can’t get any closer than this.
After what feels like an eternity, the Stanley Cup final will finally produce a winner Wednesday. No team has held a two-win advantage in the series. The Bruins, chasing their seventh Cup in franchise history, are the all-time leader in Game 7 wins with 15, 14 of those coming at home, the site of Wednesday’s contest. The Blues, on the other hand, are still looking for their first championship, and St. Louis holds a 9-8 record in Game 7s – including a win against the Dallas Stars in the second round this year.
The Bruins have the advantage in most statistical categories, but that doesn’t matter in Game 7. It doesn’t matter who scored the most goals or who made the most saves before today. Past experience is irrelevant unless you have what it takes to go through with the victory, and given the back and forth nature of this playoff round – and the craziness that has been this post-season – there’s no clear favorite going into tonight’s contest at TD Garden.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a bit of fun. Only 16 Stanley Cup finals have gone to Game 7, and none since Boston’s 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in 2011. They don’t happen often, and you can’t get more dramatic than this. Let’s take a look at a few records from historic do-or-die games in league history:
Most Game 7 Wins – 3 (Detroit and Toronto)
Of the 16 previous Game 7s in Stanley Cup final history, two teams – Toronto (1942, 1945 and 1964) and Detroit (1950, 1954, 1955) – have won it three times, while the Montreal Canadiens are the lone team to win two titles in Game 7 (1965 and 1971). As noted, this is the second time Boston has played in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, winning the last battle in 2011.
Most Goals by Two Teams – 7 (Detroit vs. NY Rangers, 1950)
Back in 1950, just four of the six teams qualified for the playoffs, resulting in a much quicker post-season. (Wouldn’t that be nice today?) In the final, Detroit and New York traded blows, with the Red Wings forcing Game 7 after a valiant effort in Game 6. In the series clincher, Pete Babando’s goal midway through the fifth frame gave the Red Wings the 4-3 victory in the highest scoring Stanley Cup final Game 7 in league history. It was Detroit’s revenge for dropping championships to Toronto in 1942 and 1945 in a similar situation.
Most Goals by One Player – 2 (11 players tied)
We’re still waiting on our first Stanley Cup hat-trick, but 11 players have scored at least two goals in a Cup final Game 7 (including Babando’s superb effort 69 years ago). Two players in tonight’s game – Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron – combined for 100 percent of the goals scored in the 2011 finale. Two other famous examples came from depth players Maxime Talbot, an unsung hero during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Cup run in 2009, and Ruslan Fedotenko, who was the Tampa Bay Lightning’s saving grace in 2004 when he played the best hockey of his career. But between 1971 and 2000, only two players managed to score twice – Henri Richard (1971) and Trevor Linden (1994, in a losing effort).
Most Points – 3 (five players tied)
It’s surprising nobody has truly gone off, but a handful of players have registered three points in one Game 7. The most recent example was Marchand’s 2011 performance. Maybe the most famous instance, though, is Mike Rupp’s extravaganza in 2003 with the New Jersey Devils. It was a career night for Rupp, who scored a goal and recorded two assists in just his fourth career playoff game. Prior to his Game 7 performance, Rupp had scored just three points from February until the career night in June. Rupp finished his 11-year NHL career with just eight playoff points in 67 games, so he peaked at an important time to help his team win the Cup. Alex Tanguay (2001), Dick Duff and Bobby Rousseau (1965) were the only other examples of players posting three points in the championship-deciding thriller.
Most Saves – 40 (Ron Hextall, 1987)
Hextall’s rookie playoff run in 1987 will forever be remembered as one of the best goalie efforts in post-season history, but it also featured one of the best games by a losing goaltender, too. Hextall did everything he could to keep the Philadelphia Flyers’ Stanley Cup hopes alive, stopping 40 Oilers shots in Game 7. It wasn’t enough, though, and Edmonton captured the Stanley Cup, while Hextall became the fourth goalie to win the Conn Smythe in a losing effort. What’s crazy is that 1987 serves as the last Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final to feature a lead change, with Edmonton scoring three straight to win the battle 3-1.
Oldest Goal-Scorer – 36 years, 295 days (Red Kelly, 1964)
It’s surprising that just two players have scored a Game 7 goal in the final over the age of 35. Henri Richard did it twice in 1971 at 35 years and 78 days, but Kelly is the oldest player to score in the season-ending contest when he fired one home against the team that made him famous, the Red Wings, while playing for the Maple Leafs back in 1964. Toronto won the game 4-0, and Kelly captured his seventh Stanley Cup. Boston’s Zdeno Chara, 42, is the only player who can break the age record Wednesday night, a few days after becoming the oldest defender to score a goal in a Cup final game.
All stats courtesy of Hockey-Reference.
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