Game 7: Where Heroes Emerge

Game 7 is one of the most exciting and stressful things you can imagine as a sports fan. It comes down to one game and anything can happen. The drama, the pressure and the edge of your seat excitement are some of the things that make it so special.

In one night a franchise’s fortunes can change for better or worse. In one night a fourth line winger can go from an eight-minute a night player to a hero. In one night a superstar can live up to the name or fail and carry the stigma of not coming up big when called upon.

Game 7 Heroes

Looking back throughout the history of the NHL so many players have become big names because of their actions in a Game 7. Justin Williams currently of the Washington Capitals carries the nickname “Mr. Game 7” because of his performances in those critical games. Throughout his career, he has seven goals and 14 points in these do or die games. Williams will play his eighth Game 7 on Wednesday night when the Capitals host the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Other players have made their mark in the league with just one iconic moment. On May 27, 1994, Stephane Matteau scored the game-winning overtime goal for the New York Rangers over the New Jersey Devils to send the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals. I’m sure you’ve heard the famous call before. If not, here you go:

YouTube player

On April 27, 2011 Nathan Horton scored the game-winning overtime goal for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The Bruins would eventually go on to win the cup that season and Horton would have his career shortened by injury.

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez has two big game-winning goals to his record. One is a Game 7 overtime goal against the Chicago Blackhawks to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup Final. He would go on to score the Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 5 against the Rangers just a few weeks later.

Many more players have their names remembered for big goals like Steve Yzerman, Derek Plante, Darius Kasparaitis, Brent Seabrook and Alex Burrows to name a few.

Stepping Stone

In most cases when you look back at a playoff run after a team wins the Stanley Cup, you’ll come across a big Game 7 win that catapulted a team to the top of the hill. Five of the last six Stanley Cup winning teams won a Game 7 in route to eventually winning it all. Only the Kings in 2012 did not.

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks, NHL, Milestones
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On Wednesday night four teams will be playing for the opportunity to add a Game 7 victory to their name and continue their journey to the Stanley Cup. The Capitals will host the defending champion Penguins. While the young Edmonton Oilers will visit the Anaheim Ducks who are looking to do away with the label of a team that can’t win the big game.

Four fan bases will go through the nail-biting entertainment of an all or nothing matchup. At the end of the night, two teams will suffer a gut-wrenching loss and two will experience the jubilation of moving on. We’ll likely see a new hero or two emerge on Wednesday night and perhaps even later in this year’s playoffs.

As a hockey fan with no skin in the game this year. I’m counting down the hours to see the excitement and find out who will come up big.