In a few hours, either the Boston Bruins or the Toronto Maple Leafs will be playing their final hockey game of the 2017-18 NHL season. For 60 minutes (or maybe more, depending on if the game goes to overtime), these two Original Six rivals will take the ice at the Boston Garden, put everything else out of their minds, and focus on the task at hand: win or go home.
Because when it comes to a Game 7, you have no other option. Either you win and earn the opportunity to keep playing, or you don’t win and you hang up the skates for the next few months. That’s the beauty of a Game 7. All bets are off, and especially in the NHL, anything can happen.
For the fans watching, there really is no experience in sports quite like a Game 7. When your favorite team is involved, then it basically turns into a life experience. That can be said for any sport, but in hockey, Game 7s are the most thrilling experience in sports, hands down. There’s a certain intensity about every single shot that gets taken at the net. There’s an urgency about the players that we only get to see in these special occasions.
A lot of times, sports fans will say that some of their best memories have involved a Game 7. Unfortunately, the same can be said for some of their worst memories too. As a fan myself, I’ve been on both sides of that scenario. It’s either complete jubilation or complete devastation.
There have been a lot of tremendous Game 7s in the Stanley Cup playoffs over the years, and now, the Bruins and the Maple Leafs will get another chance to add to that great history.
Will This Game 7 Be Anything Like 2013?
Do you remember when the Bruins and the Maple Leafs met in the first round of the 2013 playoffs, and their series culminated with a Game 7 in Boston? Bruins and Leafs fans definitely remember it; one fan base remembers it fondly, and the other fan base would probably prefer to permanently wipe it from their memories.
The amazing thing is that this series has unfolded pretty much exactly like that one did five years ago. The Bruins came out strong immediately out of the gate and stormed to a commanding three-games-to-one lead in the series. The Maple Leafs then started clicking, winning Games 5 and 6 to push the series to a Game 7 on the Boston Garden ice. The 2018 version of this series has followed the exact same narrative. It’s almost a little eerie.
In 2013, after coughing up their 3-1 series lead, the Bruins fell behind 4-1 in the third period of Game 7, then unleashed for three goals late in the third period (two coming in the final two minutes) to tie the game and stun the Leafs.
In overtime, Patrice Bergeron scored the game-winning goal to complete Boston’s remarkable comeback, leaving Toronto fans in a stunned daze.
That was a Game 7 for the ages. If this year’s Game 7 is anything like the last one, then fans from both sides won’t be forgetting it any time soon. And to be honest, that’s kind of what you expect from a Game 7.
It Will Come Down to the Goaltenders
When the Bruins went up three games to one after an excellent performance in Game 4, it didn’t seem like a Game 7 would be necessary to decide the winner of this series. But that was before Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen morphed into a brick wall.
In complete contrast to Games 1 and 2 when the Bruins outscored the Leafs 12-4, Andersen has looked like a completely different hockey player. In Game 5, he outperformed Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, who was chased from the game in the second period. Then in Game 6, Andersen was basically lights out, only giving up one goal to help his team to a 2-1 victory and force a decisive Game 7.
When the Bruins and Leafs meet in this winner-take-all game to decide who will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round, it will ultimately come down to which goalie is the most on their game. Right now, it’s definitely safe to say that Andersen has the momentum in his corner.
Cody Rivera is a sports writer covering the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers, as well as a contributor to SB Nation’s PatsPulpit.com. In addition to the Bruins, Cody is also a devoted fan of the Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots. Send Cody an email at email@example.com