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Winner Takes All: The Complete History of Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final

A look at the past 17 Stanley Cup Finals that reached the pivotal Game Seven

By Clyde E. DawkinsPublished about a month ago 7 min read
The Colorado Avalanche's second Stanley Cup came via a Game Seven victory

Game Seven. No two words have brought out more excitement, tension, and panic more than "Game Seven." Of course, Game Seven exists in the playoff series format that we see in MLB, the NBA, and the NHL. MLB only has the League Championship Series (since 1985) and the World Series played under a best-of-seven format. Since 2003, all NBA playoff rounds have been best-of-seven, while the NHL has had every round play under that format since 1987.

Game Seven in any round is always nail-biting, as it's do or die. The winner advances, while the defeated team's championship journey comes to a heartbreaking end. When it's Game Seven in the final round, though, that turns the epicness (and the tension) up a million notches. In MLB, 40 best-of-seven World Series have reached the final game, with the last one occurring in 2019. Nineteen NBA Finals have reached Game Seven, with the last one taking place in 2016.

The subject, of course, is the Stanley Cup Final, and this year's Final between the Florida Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers is now at Game Seven. This is the 18th Stanley Cup Final to reach Game Seven, and the first since 2019. Game Seven of the Cup Final is the best. It's the finale of the greatest sport season ever, and it's nail-biting regardless of who's in it. If you have a team in it, oh good luck to you.

So what occurred in the first 17 Cup Final Game Sevens? Here's your answer:

Syl Apps holding the Stanley Cup in 1942

The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs have been mentioned a lot during this year's Final. It's because the Oilers' road to Game Seven required them winning three straight games after losing the first three, putting them one win away from becoming the second team to complete the reverse sweep in the Cup Final. The 1942 Leafs stand as the only team to achieve this, but what a lot of fans don't know about that run is that this was actually the very first Cup Final to go seven. Game Seven of that year's Final took place on April 18, 1942, and saw the Leafs defeat the Detroit Red Wings, 3-1, at Maple Leaf Gardens to capture the Stanley Cup.

These same two teams met in Game Seven of the Final three years later, and in this instance, the Red Wings were attempting to pull off the reverse sweep, as they lost the first three games but won the next three. However, the Wings could not complete the sweep, as the Leafs did bounce back and win 2-1 at Detroit Olympia, becoming the first road team to win Game Seven of the Cup Final.

Pete Babando scored the first Cup Final Game Seven OT goal in 1950

In 1950, the Final between the Red Wings and the New York Rangers ended up going the maximum seven games, and Game Seven actually went to overtime. A second overtime would be needed, and at 8:31 of the fifth period, it was Pete Babando who scored the game winner and Cup clincher. The 1950 Game Seven became the first to need overtime, and the only one to need more than one extra period. The next Game Seven took place in 1954 between the Wings and the Montréal Canadiens; a Game Seven that was needed after the Habs won Games Five and Six after trailing 3-1. This game needed overtime, but it only took just under five minutes for Tony Leswick to win it.

To date, the 1954 Game Seven is the most recent to reach overtime. These two teams would face each other in the following year's Cup Final, which also went seven and was won by the Wings. It would be nine years until another Cup Final went the max, and it would be the Maple Leafs defeating the Red Wings, 4-0, at Maple Leaf Gardens on April 25, 1964--the first shutout in Cup Final Game Seven history. On the following year, the Canadiens won Game Seven over the Chicago Black Hawks by that same score as the previous year; the last Cup Final Game Seven in the Original Six era. These same teams would meet again in another seven game Final in 1971, with the Canadiens winning this one, 3-2, in Chicago.

The New York Rangers won a memorable Game Seven to win the Cup in 1994

NHL fans would have to wait sixteen years for another Cup Final to reach seven games. The 1987 Final between the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers went the maximum after the Flyers won Games Five and Six to keep their hopes alive. Game Seven took place at Northlands Coliseum on May 31, 1987, and it saw the Oilers win, 3-1, to capture their third Stanley Cup. Jari Kurri scored the Cup-clinching goal on the player who would actually win the Conn Smythe Trophy that year: Ron Hextall.

Seven years later, the New York Rangers faced off against the Vancouver Canucks in what has to be one of the most memorable of the Game Sevens. We all know the story about that journey; Rangers were looking to kill the "1940" chants, and there was Mark Messier's guarantee in the Eastern Conference Final. It was not an easy road for the Rangers, but they completed it with a 3-2 win in Game Seven at Madison Square Garden on June 14, 1994. Messier, who was part of the 1987 Game Seven, scored the Cup-clincher on that evening.

We would have to wait another seven years for a seven game Final, and this is where the emotion comes in:

June 9, 2001. I wasn't nervous that Saturday evening, because I had a feeling we'd win this. The Colorado Avalanche shut out the New Jersey Devils in Game Six to get to Game Seven, and the first period saw Alex Tanguay make it 1-0. He would strike again in the second, and then captain Joe Sakic made it 3-0. Patrick Roy's bid for a second straight shutout ended in that period, but the score would hold up. A 3-1 win that clinched the Avs' second Stanley Cup. Alex Tanguay's 2nd goal of the game was the Cup clincher, and Raymond Bourque, one of the greatest defensemen in NHL history, retired on top as Stanley Cup Champion.

Exactly two years to the day later, a very insane and wild season ended with Game Seven between the aforementioned Devils and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. That whole postseason was crazy, so it was no surprise that the Final would be as well. Martin Brodeur made up for two years prior with a shutout win in this pivotal game, with the final score being 3-0. Mike Rupp, now a studio analyst for the NHL Network, scored the Cup clincher on that year's Conn Smythe winner, Jean-Sebastien Giguere. The following year's Final also went seven games, and it was the Tampa Bay Lightning winning, 2-1, over the Calgary Flames to capture their very first Stanley Cup. It marked the first time in NHL history that a team's very first Cup was won in Game Seven.

Sidney Crosby's first Stanley Cup came via a Game Seven victory

The first Cup Final after the lockout took place in 2006, and that became the third straight Final to go seven. In that go-around, it was the Carolina Hurricanes winning, 3-1, over the Edmonton Oilers, to capture their very first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Three years later, it was the Pittsburgh Penguins' turn, and this felt very good to the team, as in 2008, the Detroit Red Wings defeated them in that year's Final. The two teams ran into each other again in 2009, and this one went the maximum seven games, and featured a very memorable end where Marc-Andre Fleury made key saves to prevent overtime. The Game Seven win allowed Sidney Crosby to hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career, and he would do it two more times later on.

Because of the crippling lockout that killed the 2004-05 season, there were only nine Finals played in the 2000s decade. Out of the nine Finals, five of them went seven, and Pittsburgh's win was the first road win in a Cup Final Game Seven since 1971.

The Bruins' Game Seven win was the only road win in the 2011 Final

Two years later, we were treated to quite an intriguing Final between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks, and it was, for the most part, a tale of two venues. The Canucks' three home wins were close--all one goal games, and two of them were shutouts. The Bruins' three home wins were all blowouts. Game Seven saw the Bruins take full control, a 4-0 win in Vancouver, with Patrice Bergeron scoring the Cup clincher. Eight years later, the Bruins would be in another Cup Final Game Seven, this time at home and against the St. Louis Blues. While Boston did win on the road in 2011, home ice would not be kind to them eight years later. The Blues won, 4-1, to capture their first Stanley Cup in their over five decade franchise history, and that Final was the most recent one to reach seven games until this year.

Seventeen Cup Finals reached seven games, and this year's Final will serve as the eighteenth. The home team is 12-5, but the road team has won the last three. The Oilers are in their third CFG7 in their franchise history, and they are the last Canadian team to win such a game. This is also the 13th such game to feature a Canadian team, and the first since 2011. Canadian teams are 6-6 in CFG7s, but they have lost four straight. This is the Panthers' first such game, and it will be the second CFG7 to take place in the Sunshine State--the first was in 2004 (Lightning). This is the sixth CFG7 to feature a team looking to win their first-ever Stanley Cup, such teams are 3-2 in the past five, with the Canucks owning both losses. The Maple Leafs and Red Wings are tied for the most CFG7 wins with three, while the Canadiens have two. The Wings are the only team to win CFG7 in OT, as they won the only two such games to reach extra time.

I've seen a number of these CFG7s, they are also nail-biting and tense, and they serve as epic finales of a spectacular season. 2001 remains a very wonderful memory for me, and the others I've watch were just amazing. I expect this year's Game Seven to be every bit as wild and crazy as the others were, and the ending will be absolutely spectacular.


About the Creator

Clyde E. Dawkins

I am an avid fan of sports and wrestling, and I've been a fan of female villains since the age of eight. Also into film and TV, especially Simpsons and Family Guy.

Feel free to follow my social media:

Twitter - Facebook - Tiktok - Instagram

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Comments (1)

  • Philip Gipsonabout a month ago

    Thank you as always for going in depth on the world of storytelling. :)

Clyde E. DawkinsWritten by Clyde E. Dawkins

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