Eighty-six down, one to go; one game, all the glory.
What a post-season it’s been. Six seven-game series, only five of 15 series with fewer than six games, storylines and stars galore, and frenetic end-to-end play throughout.
Friday night will mark Detroit’s seventh Cup final Game 7 (they were involved in each of the first six in league history, going 3-3) and the first for Pittsburgh. Game 7s have a lore all to themselves in sport. They are the quintessential pressure-packed moments.
“The intensity and dramatic feeling of a Game 7 is irreplaceable,” explained Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco to THN’s Adam Proteau in May. “You know that either way there’s going to be a handshake at the end of the game – and being on the right side of that handshake is the only thing you’re focused on.”
The most recent Stanley Cup final to go to a seventh game was in 2006, when the Hurricanes bested the Oilers 3-1 in front of a raucous Carolina crowd. Peter Laviolette, the Hurricanes coach at the time, offered THN some insights into what the Red Wings and Penguins will be feeling during the next couple of days.
“The night before a Game 7 is always tough,” Laviolette told Proteau. “The day before the game and going to bed that night, there are a lot of anxious moments. When you wake up the next day and you’re back at work, it’s not as unnerving as when you’re not at the rink.
“Once you’re there, you’re trying to work on things, you’re running meetings, players are there and you’re moving toward your goal. The anticipation and the stress build even more as you hit the ice for that first skate.
“But once the first puck is dropped and the game started, never do I recall feeling that anxiety anymore. It’s all business at that point.”
It may be all business from a coach’s standpoint, but Turco had a different take on the pressure and what it’s like once the game starts.
“You know going in that losing is a possibility and that your team can go home on a fluke goal or a strange play,” Turco said. “You know even if you give everything you have, maybe things still don’t work out.”
We know things will work out for one of the two teams Friday night, just as they always have and always will. With a look to the past this week, we offer THN’s Top 10 Stanley Cup final Game 7s.
10. 1942 – Toronto over Detroit, 3-1
In the first Stanley Cup final to reach a seventh game, the Maple Leafs prevailed, storming back from a 3-1 series deficit to win their first championship in 10 years. They had lost six finals in the meantime.
9. 1955 – Detroit over Montreal, 3-1
The Canadiens’ fifth final in five years ended as it had the year before, with a seven-game defeat to the Red Wings. But this time les Glorieux were without their star, Maurice Richard, who had been suspended for the final three games of the regular season and the entire playoffs after he hit a referee during a brawl. The suspension was the impetus for the ‘Richard Riot.’ But Habs fans were sated each of the next five years, as their team ran-off five Cups in a row.
8. 1964 – Toronto over Detroit, 4-0
Game 7 was set up by Bob Baun’s broken-ankle overtime goal in Game 6 for the Maple Leafs. Johnny Bower recorded his second shutout of the post-season and Toronto won its third Cup in a row.
7. 1954 – Detroit over Montreal, 2-1 OT
The second and last Cup final Game 7 to go to overtime ended on an ‘own goal’ by legendary Montreal blueliner Doug Harvey. While attempting to glove a dump-in by Red Wing Tony Leswick, Harvey deflected it into the Montreal net.
6. 2001 – Colorado over New Jersey, 3-1
Joe Sakic accepts the Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman and passes it to Ray Bourque; the first time the Hall of Fame defenseman had touched it. Patrick Roy won his record third Conn Smythe Trophy.
5. 2004 – Tampa Bay over Calgary, 2-1
It couldn’t get any closer than this series: Game 7 was won by a single goal and just one goal separated the two teams throughout the series. The Lightning’s Ruslan Fedotenko – who will also play Friday night for the Pens – scored both Tampa goals.
4. 1971 – Montreal over Chicago, 3-2
The first of Montreal’s six Cups in the 1970s. Henri Richard scored the decisive goal and Ken Dryden became a living legend for winning the Conn Smythe Trophy after playing just six regular season games. Dryden won the Calder Trophy the next season. It took 16 years for the next seven-game Cup final.
3. 1987 – Edmonton over Philadelphia, 3-1
The Flyers rallied from a three-games-to-one deficit to take it to Game 7 and the Oilers rallied from 1-0 down to win the game. Despite the loss, Philly’s rookie netminder Ron Hextall won the Conn Smythe Trophy.
2. 1950 – Detroit over the New York Rangers, 4-3 2OT
The longest Game 7 in Cup final history was also the first to go to extra time. Pete Babando scored at 8:31 of the second overtime to clinch Detroit’s fourth Cup.
1. 1994 – New York Rangers over Vancouver, 3-2
The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Blueshirts ended a 54-year Cup drought on Mark Messier’s fourth game-winning goal and 30th point of the playoffs. Brian Leetch won the Conn Smythe Trophy after leading all players in post-season assists and points.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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