Seventh heaven: a brief history of Game Seven of the Finals

The Stanley Cup has been contested in a Game 7 a mere 15 times in NHL history prior to Wednesday night.

“Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.”

Few words bring chills to the spines of sports fans as much as these seven. As the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins prepare to do battle for Lord Stanley’s hallowed chalice on Wednesday evening at Rogers Arena, here is a brief look at the history of Game Seven.

The National Hockey League adopted a best-of-seven format for the first time in the 1939 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 2011 finals will be only the 16th to go the distance in the 72 series since the format was introduced.

  • 1942: The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings in seven games
    Three years into the new format, two teams went to seven for the first time. Detroit won the first three games, only to blow the lead and be beaten in each of the next four games to give the Leafs the Cup.
  • 1945: The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings in seven games
    Three years after the same two teams did battle in the first seven-game Cup Final, they did it again. The result was exactly the same. This time, the Leafs won the first three games…only to have Detroit win each of the next three to force a seventh and deciding game at home. The Red Wings then lost a tight final game by a 2-1 score, becoming the first home team to lose Game Seven. It wouldn’t happen again for 26 years.
  • 1950: The Detroit Red Wings beat the New York Rangers in seven games
    After dropping the first two Game Sevens in finals history, the Red Wings finally came out on top. In a tight series, Detroit rallied back from a 3-2 series deficit and won the last two games at home to clinch the Cup. The final game was decided in double overtime, with Detroit’s Pete Babando scoring 8:31 into the second overtime period to win it.
  • 1954: The Detroit Red Wings beat the Montreal Canadiens in seven games
    Once again a Red Wings appearance in the Finals went to seven games and, once again, it was decided in overtime. After taking a 3-1 series lead over the defending Cup champions from Montreal, the Red Wings dropped a 1-0 overtime game at home and then a 4-1 sixth game in Montreal to force a seventh game. Tony Leswick scored the Cup-winning overtime goal for Detroit.
  • 1955: The Detroit Red Wings beat the Montreal Canadiens in seven games
    In an ultra-rare Cup series repeat from the previous year, the Red Wings and Canadiens once again went to seven games. The home team won every single game of the series (a feat repeated just twice in Finals history) and the Wings, led by Gordie Howe, clinched the Cup. They wouldn’t win another Cup until 1997.
  • 1964: The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings in seven games
    Today’s Maple Leafs may be best known for playoff futility, but in the 1960s they were amongst the league’s best. Down 3-2 in the series and facing elimination on the road in Detroit, the Leafs won Game Six on an overtime goal by Bob Baun to force a seventh game back in Toronto. Toronto won Game 7, and the Cup, by a 4-0 score in Maple Leaf Gardens.
  • 1965: The Montreal Canadiens beat the Chicago Black Hawks in seven games
    The first and only time the Cup was decided in the hallowed Montreal Forum in a Game 7, the 1965 series was only the second where every single game was won by the home side. Montreal’s Jean Beliveau won the first Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
  • 1971: The Montreal Canadiens beat the Chicago Black Hawks in seven games
    Facing elimination at home after going down 3-2 in the series, the Habs eked out a tight 4-3 win to force a seventh game back in Chicago two days later. Paced by a game-winning marker by Henri Richard, the Canadiens became just the second team to win the Cup in a Game 7 on the road.
  • 1987: The Edmonton Oilers beat the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games
    The first seven-game Finals in 16 years, and the first featuring any non-Original Six teams, this series featured the dynastic Edmonton Oilers continuing to run amok but hitting a roadblock in the form of the Broad Street Bullies. Nursing a 3-1 series lead, the Oilers twice failed to finish off the Flyers and finally closed out the series in the seventh game at home. Despite the loss, Philadelphia goaltender Ron Hextall was named the series MVP.
  • 1994: The New York Rangers beat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games
    The New York Rangers ended a 54-year Cup drought with an intense affair against the upstart Vancouver Canucks. After building up a 3-1 series lead, the Rangers twice failed to finish off the Canucks (being out-scored 10-4 in Games 5 and 6). While the Canucks were able to successfully battle back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs, the Cinderella magic run out and the Rangers took Game Seven by a 3-2 score to capture the Cup.
  • 2001: The Colorado Avalanche beat the New Jersey Devils in seven games
    The first of five Finals to go the distance in the first decade of the new century, the 2001 series was also the first to feature two relocated franchises. Facing a 3-2 deficit on the road, the Avalanche dominated the Devils 4-0 to force Game Seven, then beat the Devils 3-1 to win the Cup.
  • 2003: The New Jersey Devils beat the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in seven games
    The first of three consecutive Finals to go to seven games. The upstart Mighty Ducks fought off the heavily-favoured Devils at home in Game Six to force seventh game, only to come out flat and be dominated 3-0 by the Devils in the final game. For the third time in history, every game was won the by the home team.
  • 2004: The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Calgary Flames in seven games
    The second of three consecutive Finals to go to seven games. The last Finals before the lockout and the dawn of the “New NHL,” the Flames worked their way to a 3-2 series lead. Unfortunately for the Flames, they lost Game Six in double overtime, then were beaten 2-1 in the seventh game. This was the first appearance in a Cup Final by a Canadian team since 1994.
  • 2006: The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Edmonton Oilers in seven games
    The third of three consecutive Finals to go to seven games. The second straight Cup Final that featured a small-market team from Alberta facing a more-favoured team from the Southeast Division. The Oilers fought back from a 3-1 series deficit to force Game Seven, only to drop a 3-1 decision to the Hurricanes. The first, and so far only, game to feature two former WHA teams.
  • 2009: The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings in seven games
    The Detroit Red Wings went to seven games in a Cup Final for the seventh time and lost, as the Penguins became just the third team in Cup history to win Game 7 on the road. The Penguins won Game Six at home, then won Game Seven paced by Max Talbot’s two goals.

In the 15 previous Game Sevens, the home team is 12-3. The Eastern Conference has won the last four Game Sevens (and five of the last six).

Ryan Pike
A native of the Stampede City, Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and as Managing Editor of FlamesNation.ca.
Ryan Pike

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