Game seven, Conference Finals, NHL playoffs. It simply doesn’t get any better than this.
Friday, 8 p.m. EST at Madison Square Garden kicks off a hockey fan’s dream as the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning will duel it out in a win or go home game seven contest with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line.
Then, as if one Conference Final game seven wasn’t enough of a treat (or torture, depending on one’s rooting interests), the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks will follow suit on Saturday at 8 p.m. EST with a game seven battle of their own with the second and final spot in the Stanley Cup Final still up for grabs.
This is what it all comes down to. Two teams will advance to the final stage, while two will be sent packing. Game sevens are where legacies are made, where Matteau’s become legend, and Fedotenko’s become lore. Game sevens are where hopes are crushed and dreams come true.
This is what hockey fans, nay, sports fans wait all year for. Two days, two game sevens, and four teams vying for two spots in the Stanley Cup Final. There is genuinely nothing more that hockey fans could ask for heading into this weekend.
“A Game 7 is the ultimate roller coaster experience. I always suggest having a defibrillator ready…just in case. It isn’t for the faint of heart.” – Joe Marraccino, THW Bruins Contributor
You can feel the electricity, you can feel the intensity, and you can sense the mystique. It is, for hockey fans, heaven on earth.
A Trip Back in Time
With the anticipatory lead up to the start of this weekend’s two game sevens in full effect, looking back at just a handful of the great game seven moments of the past five years seems to be only fitting.
“To me, a game 7 is either the best hockey you’ve ever seen, or the most nerve-racking–depending on whether your team is playing or not…” – Kevin Mizera, THW Rangers Contributor
Moving chronologically, we’ll start by heading back to 2010 when the Flyers not only erased a 3-0 series deficit to force a game seven back at the TD Garden in Boston, but they also erased a 3-0 deficit in that game seven in order to win the series and advance to the Eastern Conference Final. The Flyers eventually fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup Final, but not before capping off this dramatic series win.
In the 2011 Eastern Conference Final, the Lightning and the Bruins met in a series which eventually made it to a seventh game. In that deciding contest in Boston, the two teams were deadlocked in a scoreless game past the midway point of the third period. Dwayne Roloson stood on his head in net for Tampa Bay stopping 37 shots, but it was Nathan Horton who was the third period hero in that one for Boston as he netted the winner at 12:27 of the final period.
In 2012, there were a pair of dramatic first round game seven overtime winners. The first came courtesy of Joel Ward for the Capitals over the Bruins. After a back and forth series, the Capitals pushed the defending Stanley Cup Champions to the brink, and when the deciding game went to overtime, it only took Joel Ward 2:57 to net the winner and clinch the series for Washington.
Meanwhile down in Florida it was Adam Henrique who ended the hopes of the Panthers in dramatic fashion. After Henrique opened the scoring for the Devils early in the first period, New Jersey proceeded to open up a 2-0 lead in the game. The Panthers stormed back with two goals in the third period though to force overtime, but when it all came down to it, it was again Henrique who closed the scoring for the Devils to take home the series.
It’s rare that we see a game seven quite as good as the one played between the Bruins and Maple Leafs back in 2013. After the Bruins raced out to a 3-1 series lead, the Leafs clawed back to force a game seven back in Boston and when they opened up a 4-1 lead during the third period of said game seven, it seemed as though Toronto was in perfect position to pull off the comeback. What happened instead, though, was one of the most stunning game seven collapses in NHL history.
And finally, how could we forget Nino Niederreiter’s game seven overtime winner in round one last spring? The one which spoiled Nathan MacKinnon’s and the Avalanche’s coming out party in what was a wild (pun intended) back and forth series throughout.
History Will Be Made
This evening, Friday, the 29th day of May, the Rangers and the Lightning will battle it out with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line. Will a new hero be born the way Matteau was the last time game seven of the Eastern Conference Final was played at MSG back in 1994?
And then tomorrow, Saturday the 30th, the Ducks will play host to the Blackhawks for another game seven with the second and final ticket to the Stanley Cup Final at stake. Can the Hawks change their ending after last year’s heartbreak in game seven of the Western Conference Final against the Kings?
“It’s hard to capture what being at a game 7 feels like in words; the atmosphere and intensity just seems to ramp up when players realize their season is on the line.” – Joseph Aleong, THW Contributor
Whichever way you slice it, what’s sure to be in store over the next couple days next is a hockey fan’s dream. And as the NHL’s ad campaign once stated, “History will be made.”
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.