There are probably no two words that conjure up a bigger realm of emotions for sports fans than “Game 7”. Excitement, anticipation, fear, hope, the list goes on and on. It is the game where legends are made. If your team is in Game 7, it is the epitome of a rollercoaster ride. The magnifying glass of the sports world is on you for (at least) 60 minutes. Every mistake is scrutinized, every coaching decision is questioned, and it only ends one of two ways, wondering “what-if”, or a shining moment that will stick with you for a lifetime, for both fan and player alike. For every major North American sport except football, Game 7 is what separates the best from the rest. There are many different ways to get there, but none of that matters once the game starts. A blown 3-0 series lead, a comeback from down 3-0, a couple bad calls from games earlier in the series; all forgotten. The only thing that matters at the end of the day is the final score, and that is what makes game 7 beautiful. Hockey is no exception, and the drama of Game 7 is unmatched. We have had a few in this year’s playoffs, and with the teams remaining being that much more even, you can be sure there are more to come. The drama of a game 7 is incredible, it’s the reason the players finish that second work out of the day in summer training, it’s the reason that the die-hard fan doesn’t shave that playoff beard, it’s the reason the coach watches that extra 15 minutes of film, to do everything you know how to do to make sure that your team has that shining moment, and not wondering “what if”. Anyone can be the hero, the long-time team captain, an underrated role player, a struggling star, or the last person on earth that you would ever guess. It’s a beautiful thing.
Let’s take a look at some of the faces of game 7.
This lends to one of those game 7 moments from an unlikely hero. Darius Kasparitis was a feared hitter on the Penguins blueline for many years, but was not known for his scoring prowess. After Mario Lemieux tied the game late to send it to Overtime, Kasparitis sailed a shot passed future hall of famer Dominik Hasek and became the unlikely hero. In his elation, he took off down the ice, ending in a home plate slide through center ice.
For the two seasons prior to 2011, the Vancouver Canucks enjoyed a successful regular season leading to high post season hopes, only to be eliminated both years by the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs. Nursing a 1-goal lead at home in Game 7, the Canucks gave up the tying goal to captain Jonathan Toews, leaving many in attendance to fret “Not again”. Chicago defender Chris Campoli botched a clearing attempt that Burrows jumped, caught and dropped to the ice, skated to the slot and buried a slap shot behind Chicago netminder Corey Crawford. As the Vancouver crowd went wild and the team celebrated, CBC announcer Jim Huson put the moment perfectly, “Finally, after 3 seasons for Vancouver, it’s a great day for an exorcism”. Vancouver went on to face the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals, only to lose in… you guessed it, 7 Games.
In 2010, the Philadelphia Flyers lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Chicago Blackhawks, but their road to the finals was nothing short of spectacular. In their Semifinals series against the Boston Bruins, not only did the Flyers trail the series three comes to none, but after erasing that deficit to force game 7, they were down three GOALS to none in Game 7. They slowly erased the deficit, and Simon Gagne’s third period Power Play goal capped the comeback, giving the Flyers a 4-3 lead in the game, that they never relinquished.
After losing to the Red Wings in 6 games the season prior, Pittsburgh found themselves matched up in the Finals once more against the Wings. A long, well played series culminated in Game 7 in Detroit. Unsung role player Max Talbot was the Game 7 hero for the Penguins, potting 2 goals in the game. Talbot’s first goal was typical of him, taking the puck and swinging it towards the net to see it go in, but his second goal was very atypical for Talbot. Coming on a 2-on-1 against goaltender Chris Osgood, Talbot looked off the pass and picked a corner, a true goal scorers goal, and in celebration and realization of the moment, Talbot slid to his knees pumping both fists, becoming one of those indelible images, at least to Penguins fans.
New York’s 54-year quest to recapture Lord Stanley’s old silver mug came to an electrifying conclusion in the deafening confines of Madison Square Garden. The Rangers saw their leads of 2-0 and 3-1 trimmed and had to hang on through a tight third period. One of the most compelling playoff runs in NHL history, that included “the guarantee”, the Rangers capped it off in thrilling fashion to finally dispel the chants of “1940!!!!!!” that echoed through their cross-town rival Islanders’ arena for decades.
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