I have to admit, it’s hard not to get caught up in the hype for this one. Stanley Cup Final rematch, Game 7, back at the Joe, a chance to build on a dynasty for one team, a chance for redemption for another team. The storylines are endless and the excitement has built to an all-time high. This is what the NHL wanted. Let’s hope they get it.
Why the cynicism?
I have no doubt that this game has the potential to be great; a game we will talk about for years to come. But, like Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 1 last year, it also has the potential to fall flat on its face.
This morning, the TSN Top Ten was the Top Ten Stanley Cup Final Game 7 moments. Not to give too much away, but there were only ten moments they listed. Yesterday, Ian Mendes at Rogers Sportsnet posted some of the best Game 7s in sports. Again, it was a short list. I’m sure in both cases there were many more. But there have also been plenty of duds. So here’s hoping tonight’s game doesn’t turn out like these travesties:
2009 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals- Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
In what had been arguably the best series of the playoffs, there was no other option than a Game 7. Two of the best young teams in the East were going the distance, and we were promised fireworks. Well, except for a breakaway save by Fleury against Alexander Ovechkin, this game had about the same enthusiasm as Joaquin Phoenix’s recent appearance on Letterman. Pittsburgh skated away with this one, and I felt like I was watching pre-season in Switzerland. Not the Conference Semi-Finals.
2004 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals- Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Maybe this one stings a bit more because of my allegiance to the Ottawa Senators, but talk about another Game 7 letdown. In what was supposed to be Ottawa’s chance at finally beating the Leafs in the playoffs, a struggling offense, and stellar, if not incredibly lucky goaltending from Ed Belfour (remember when that Hossa shot hit the butt-end of his stick? Really Eddie? You meant to do that?), pushed this series to a Game 7. Well, we all remember how this one went. Current Stars GM Joe Niewendyk put two softies past Patrick Lalime and the game was out of hand and out of reach. The Sens bench, which used to turn defense into offense, was absolutely startled. They had no game plan after those goals, and we had to watch in utter dismay as Alfredsson led the charge to shake hands with the dreaded Leafs. In a series that had so much potential for Sens fans and the Battle of Ontario, this Game 7 was a dud.
2003 Stanley Cup Finals- New Jersey Devils vs. Anaheim Mighty Ducks
This one is being talked about as Dan Bylsma’s missed opportunity, but Game 7 was a complete bore. After coming back from a 3-1 deficit, most of the hockey world was cheering on Giguere and the Ducks as the cinderella story of 2003. But a shutout performance from Martin Brodeur and two goals from Mike Rupp made this less exciting than a John and Kate Plus 8 marathon on TLC.
1999 Western Conference Finals- Dallas Stars vs. Colorado Avalanche
Colorado took an impressive 3-2 lead over the future Stanley Cup Champions with a 7-5 victory in Game 5. After Dallas tied the series in Game 6, we all figured for some fireworks in Game 7. Well, 6 minutes into the third period and Dallas was already up 4-0. Only 7 minutes later did Colorado score its first goal, but Dallas had already wrapped this one up. They were on their way to the Finals. With a Colorado team that featured the likes of Sakic, Forsberg, Drury, and Fleury, we all figured we’d get a bit more out of this Game 7.
1996 Conference Semi-Finals- Detroit Red Wings vs. St. Louis Blues
I don’t know if you can call this a bad game, so much as a brutal way to end a series. We all know the goal. It’s replayed over and over and over. But Steve Yzerman grabs a loose puck that was coughed up by Wayne Gretzky, skates into the St. Louis zone, and fires a shot from the blueline that somehow handcuffs Jon Casey. It cements Yzerman as a great leader, player and playoff performer, sends Casey to who-knows-where, and ends the series. Good series, good hockey. Awful goal.
My age is beginning to show here, cause I’m sure I’m missing some other brutal Game 7s. Here’s hoping that tonight’s billing lives up to the hype, and doesn’t make my list next year.
Stay classy, Stanley Cup Finals Game 7. The NHL needs you.
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