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Looking back at Game 7 matches in Stanley Cup finals history

Jun 14, 2011, 1:56 PM EDT

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Sidney Crosby AP

(Click here for a fantastic slideshow of Game 7’s in Stanley Cup history, which includes some summaries of the contests along with some amazing vintage photos.)

No doubt about it, history will be made on Wednesday night. Either the Boston Bruins will win their first Stanley Cup since 1972 by riding the dreamy performances of Tim Thomas or the Vancouver Canucks will win their first championship in franchise history thanks to their drastically better play at home. Want an idea of what you’re in for? Let’s take a quick look at the other Game 7’s in Stanley Cup history in chronological order.

1942: Maple Leafs beat Red Wings 3-1

The Leafs became the only team in any major sport to come back from a 3-0 series deficit to win a championship round. That’s the stuff legends are made of, which probably explains why Leafs GM Conn Smythe has been immortalized in trophy form.

1945: Maple Leafs beat Red Wings 2-1

Detroit was one win from exacting revenge on Toronto by nearly completing their own rebound from a 3-0 hole, but the Maple Leafs survived on the road in Game 7. A home team wouldn‘t lose a Game 7 in the SCF again until 1971.

1950: Red Wings beat Rangers 4-3 (double OT)

In a series that was forced into some odd circumstances because the circus was taking place at Madison Square Garden, the Red Wings redeemed themselves thanks to what was also odd at the time: a goal by an American hockey player. Pete Babando ended it in double overtime.

1954: Red Wings beat Canadiens 2-1 (OT)

Tony Leswick scored the last overtime game-winner in a Game 7 in Stanley Cup history. Could we see another on Wednesday?

1955: Red Wings beat Canadiens 3-1

Amid turmoil from the riot related to Maurice Richard’s suspension, Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay powered the Red Wings to another Game 7 win against Montreal. The Canucks hope their series apes this one in at least one area: the home teams won every game.

1964: Maple Leafs beat Red Wings 4-0

If it weren’t for the three Game 7 wins sandwiched in between these losses, you would think Detroit would be extremely haunted by the Maple Leafs’ presence. That’s three Cups that could have gone the Red Wings’ way if three instances turned out differently. Bob Baun fought through a broken ankle to earn Toronto their third Cup in a row.

1965: Canadiens beat Blackhawks 4-0

This was yet another series in which the home team won every game. Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau won the first-ever Conn Smythe Trophy while Gump Worsley had a shutout.

1971: Canadiens beat Blackhawks 3-2

With what seemed like French/English awkwardness brewing between Maurice Richard and coach Al McNeil in the background, Ken Dryden burst onto the scene to win his first of many Cups. Dryden set the template for out-of-nowhere rookies like Patrick Roy and Cam Ward to dominate the playoffs.

1987: Oilers beat Flyers 3-1

After all this time, there was finally a Game 7 in the SCF without the Leafs, Red Wings or Canadiens being involved. Edmonton was too much for the pesky Flyers to handle, but Ron Hextall managed to win the Conn Smythe in defeat. Could Tim Thomas follow in his footsteps?

1994: Rangers beat Canucks 3-2

Mark Messier powered the Rangers past Pavel Bure and the Canucks in a game that propelled hockey to some of its highest heights (even if the honeymoon didn’t last very long). We’ll keep this recap brief out of respect to already emotionally fragile Vancouver fans.

2001: Avalanche beat Devils 3-1

There were plenty of storylines (Patrick Roy vs. Martin Brodeur, for one) but Ray Bourque’s long-awaited Cup victory provided the enduring image.

2003: Devils beat Ducks 3-0

It was far from an artistic series, but these two teams played seven games that were memorable for a few reasons. Brodeur put up three shutouts in the series but Jean-Sebastien Giguere‘s body of work helped him win the Conn Smythe in defeat, leaving him sobbing with the trophy as a consolation prize. Mike Rupp seemingly came out of nowhere to score the game-winning goal, which was also the first playoff tally of his career.

2004: Lightning beat Flames 2-1

The NHL experienced a lockout after this series, but at least the final round of the “Dead Puck Era” was pretty captivating. Rosy-cheeked winger Ruslan Fedotenko scored both goals as the Lightning held off the rugged Flames to win their first-ever Cup.

2006: Hurricanes beat Oilers 3-1

Many people will view both teams’ involvement in the Cup finals as a fluke, but that ignores what was often a very entertaining (if sloppy) series. Cam Ward did his Ken Dryden impression on his way to a Conn Smythe while Erik Cole made a courageous return from a serious neck injury to play in Game 7.

2009: Penguins beat Red Wings 2-1

Max Talbot came out of nowhere to score both goals much like Fedotenko before him (who, by the way, was on Pittsburgh’s roster). A knee injury forced Sidney Crosby to miss most of the game, but the Penguins became the first road team to win a Game 7 in the SCF since the Canadiens in ’71 thanks to Talbot, Evgeni Malkin (Conn Smythe winner) and Marc-Andre Fleury‘s heroics.

***

This brief history of Game 7 matches shows that any number of things can happen. It could follow an existing pattern or go on a path all of its own, but either way, hockey fans aren’t likely to forget it anytime soon.

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