This week we were treated to two Game 7s in the Stanely Cup Playoffs. One of them was between the Rangers and Capitals; the other was between the Bruins and Leafs. And while the former was a boring blowout—sorry, Capitals fans—the latter, on first glance, was an all-time classic. Or at least it that’s how it seemed at the time. The real question is whether Game 7 between the Bruins and Leafs would still seem great when held up to other classic Game 7s throughout the history of the NHL.
So this week I decided to take a look at the most famous Game 7s in NHL history, make a list, and see where the Bruins-Leafs tilt ranks. The results? Well, it turns out that, compared to other great Game 7s, the one we saw this week was pretty darn good. And just in case you’re skeptical, today I present you with my list of the top 13.
Obviously, you might disagree with the way I’ve ordered them, but I think pretty much everyone can agree that all of these are worthy of recognition. So take a look and, of course, if there are others you think merit consideration, let us know in the comments section.
2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals
The Canucks opened a 3-0 lead over the defending Stanley Cup Champions in 2011—the same team that had eliminated the Canucks from the playoffs in each of the previous two years. However, the Blackhawks stormed back to even the series at three games a piece, dumping a whopping 16 goals on Roberto Luongo in the process. Then they tied a tight, low-scoring Game 7 with just under two minutes remaining to send it to overtime, and it looked like the Blackhawks might prevail again, against all odds. But Alex Burrows put an end to that fear five minutes into the extra frame when he blew a slapshot past Corey Crawford to send the Canucks to the second round.
13. Canucks vs. Blackhawks (2011)
1979 Wales Conference Final
The Bruins had lost to the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1977 and 1978, but in 1979 they had the defending champs on the ropes in Game 7 of their semifinal series. Up 3-2 with just four minutes left on the clock, it looked like coach Don Cherry's Bruins were finally going to get past the Habs...then Boston made a bad line change, got caught with too many men on the ice, and Guy LaFleur scored the equalizer with 74 seconds left to send the game to overtime. And, of course, in overtime, Montreal prevailed again—costing Cherry his job and relegation him to Hockey Night in Canada forever.
12. Canadiens vs. Bruins (1979)
2004 Western Conference Quarterfinals
Down 3-2 in the series, the Canucks blew a four-goal lead in Game 6 only to win it in triple overtime. Then, in a back-and-forth Game 7, the Canucks found themselves trailing 2-1 in the closing minutes of regulation. With 15 seconds left, they rushed the puck up the ice, got a shot on goal, and banged home the rebound with just 5.7 ticks left. However, Calgary would steal the momentum right back with a game-winner less than two minutes into the extra frame.
11. Flames vs. Canucks (2004)
2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
So here is this year's entry to the list of all-time great Game 7s, tied for 10th. The Bruins were down 4-1 to the Leafs with just about a half period of hockey to play, and it certainly looked like they were going to lose the hard-fought series after being up 3-1. But the Bruins narrowed the deficit to two with just over ten minutes remaining, then they scored two goals in the final two minutes with their goalie pulled, and Patrice Bergeron scored the series-winner in the first overtime. You could almost hear the hearts of Toronto Maple Leafs fans shatter into pieces.
10. Tie – Bruins vs. Maple Leafs (2013)
2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Coming into Game 7 against the Leafs in 2013, the Bruins knew a little something about coughing up three-goal leads. They themselves had a three-goal lead against the Flyers in 2010 but ended up losing 4-3 in regulation.
10. Tie – Flyers vs. Bruins (2010)
1996 Western Conference Semifinals
The Blues-Red Wings series in 1996 was a wild one. The heavily favored Presidents Trophy-winning Red Wings jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to a 3-2 victory in Game 1 and a 8-3 victory in Game 2. But Brett Hull, Wayne Gretzky and the Blues clawed their way back into the series with a 5-4 OT win in Game 3. Then two more one-goal regulation wins for the Blues gave them a 3-2 series lead, and a 4-2 win for the Wings set up Game 7.
That game? Just your epic goal-tending dual, with Jon Casey and Chris Osgood making one big save after another until Steve Yzerman won it for the Wings in double overtime.
9. Red Wings vs. Blues (1996)
1975 Wales Conference Semifinals
For some reason, despite the fact that the '75 Islanders became only the second team over to overcome a 3-0 series deficit thanks to a thrilling 1-0 Game 7 victory, this game seems to have been somewhat forgotten. This needs to change. So watch this clip and bring it up when your watching playoff games at the bar with your friends.
8. Islanders vs. Penguins (1975)
2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Martin Brodeur with a one-goal lead and less than two-minutes remaining? Put that one in the books, my friend. It's over....except, of course, in Game 7 against the Hurricanes in 2009. Carolina tied that game up with 1:20 left on the clock with a brilliant passing play. Then, improbably, the Canes took the lead less then a minute later thanks to Eric Staal, and suddenly the shoe was on the other foot. The Devils now had to scramble for a last second goal, but they couldn't come up with it, leaving their fans in a state of total shock.
7. Hurricanes vs. Devils (2009)
1994 Stanley Cup Finals
I wouldn't say I'm an NHL historian, but I'm pretty sure that just about anyone would have to admit that, if the 1994 Stanley Cup Playoffs were the best ever, they were at least among the top five. The paths taken by the finalists that year—the Rangers and Canucks—were absolutely thrilling. In fact, they were so thrilling that, despite the overall excellence of Game 7 of the Finals, there were two other Game 7s in 1994 that rank higher on the list. So just keep on reading to hear about those.
6. Rangers vs. Canucks (1994)
1987 Patrick Division Semifinals
How many hockey games have their own awesome names? Off the top of my head, I can think of just three: the Monday Night Miracle (Blues-Flames in '86), the Miracle on Manchester (Kings-Oilers in '82), and this game right here—the Easter Epic. The post-dynasty Islanders were down 3-1 in a close series against the Capitals, but fought back to force a Game 7. That Game 7 would then last four overtime periods and just under seven hours before the Islanders' Pat LaFontaine ended it at 1:57 AM on Easter Sunday.
Of course, it's a miracle LaFontaine was even able to raise his stick to take the winning shot. By that time the players were going at about a quarter of the pace you would normally expect, and some reports said guys lost up to 15 pounds during the game.
5. Islanders vs. Capitals (1987)
1954 Stanley Cup Finals
Any time the Stanley Cup Finals goes a full seven games it's something special. However, twice in the history of the NHL, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals has gone to overtime. And that is just ridiculous. The last time this happened was 1954. That year, the Red Wings and Canadians reached the end of regulation tied 1-1, and Detroit would then go on to win the Holy Grail in overtime.
Since then, the Stanley Cup has been won in overtime eight times, and five of those were in a Game 6—but never a Game 7.
4. Red Wings vs. Canadiens (1954)
1994 Western Conference Quarterfinals
At number three we have the first of the other Game 7s from the 1994 Stanely Cup Playoffs. And the reason this Game 7 was special was not just because it was the start of a magical run to the Finals for Vancouver. It was special because the Canucks were down 3-1 in their opening round series against the Flames, and yet forced a Game 7 by winning Games 5 and 6 in overtime. Then, the final game had it all: headshots, late goals, incredible saves, and, of course, an overtime hat trick winner by Pavel Bure than sent the Canucks on to round two.
Seriously, watch this entire highlight package. It's totally worth every minute.
3. Canucks vs. Flames (1994)
1994 Eastern Conference Finals
The other incredible Game 7 from 1994? Yeah, that would be the one from the Eastern Conference Finals between the Rangers and Devils. This back-and-forth series featured three double-overtime games, the last of which was Game 7. That was won by Stephane Matteau, and it yielded one of the all-time great hockey calls. ("MATTEU! MATTEAU! MATTEAU! STEPHANE MATTEU!")
2. Rangers vs. Devils (1994)
1950 Stanley Cup Finals
At number one we have the very first Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 to be decided in overtime, and the only one to be decided in double-overtime. I don't know much about that game, but it kinds of has to be #1 by definition, doesn't it? Plus this video features a nice little bonus at the end—a shot of the Stanley Cup being slip in two for the celebration.