Wednesday night in Boston, someone is going to become a legend in the eyes of an entire fanbase.
It could be the Bruins’ Brad Marchand or Patrice Bergeron, both of whom were integral in Boston’s 2011 Stanley Cup victory. It could be the Blues’ Ryan O’Reilly or Vladimir Tarasenko, particularly given both have been effective throughout the final. The goaltenders – Boston’s Tuukka Rask and St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington – are top-quality candidates to have their play Wednesday night burned into the memories of hockey fans forever. No matter who it is, though, one player is going to be labelled as the hero of Game 7, and their accomplishments in the one-off affair that decides the Stanley Cup final will stand the test of time.
In doing so, too, that player will join an exclusive group of Game 7 icons and put their name alongside those who have stepped up and helped deliver a victory in the last game of the last series of the season. Who else has etched their name into the history books as true Game 7 heroes in the Stanley Cup final? Here’s a look at the stars of the 16 Game 7s that have decided the NHL champion in the past:
Toronto Maple Leafs (3), Detroit Red Wings (1) – April 18, 1942
Raw statistics from the early days of the Original Six era are few and far between, but the league’s box score information does reveal a fairly clear-cut hero when it comes to 1942 winner-take-all affair: Hall of Famer Sweeney Schriner. He bookended the scoring for the Maple Leafs, tying the game midway through the third before providing the insurance marker with only a few minutes remaining.
Toronto Maple Leafs (2), Detroit Red Wings (1) – April 22, 1945
Again, given the era in which the game took place, there’s not much that can be called upon insofar as raw statistics. What we do know, though, is that it took only four minutes for the Maple Leafs to regain the lead in the third period after Murray Armstrong’s tying goal. The winner came off the stick of Babe Pratt, who had won the Hart Trophy the season prior and went into the Hall of Fame in 1966.
Detroit Red Wings (4), New York Rangers (3) – April 23, 1950
It doesn’t matter what happened in regulation, because the 1950 Stanley Cup final needed not one, but two overtimes in order to find a winner. Tied at three games and three goals apiece after regulation of the seventh-and-deciding contest, Pete Babando fired home the winner midway through the second extra frame. Especially remarkable about Babando scoring the winner is that he had only three career playoff goals, two of which came in Game 7 of the 1950 final.
Detroit Red Wings (2), Montreal Canadiens (1) – April 16, 1954
Not since this Game 7 has another in Stanley Cup final history gone to overtime. The OT hero? Tony Leswick, whose shot deflected off of the glove of Canadiens defenseman and seven-time Norris Trophy winner Doug Harvey and past goaltender Gerry McNeil. Heck of a break for the Red Wings, who captured their third Stanley Cup in five years with the victory.
Detroit Red Wings (3), Montreal Canadiens (1) – April 14, 1955
That is five Stanley Cup final Game 7s in the span of 13 years for the Red Wings. There were teenaged children born in Detroit who were alive for their on-ice heroes to play in a Game 7 in the final in more than one-third of their lives. Alex Delvecchio was the hero, scoring twice in the contest. The game winner, though? That was potted by none other than Gordie Howe.
Toronto Maple Leafs (4), Detroit Red Wings (0) – April 25, 1964
From Howe and Delvecchio up front to Marcel Pronovost and Bill Gadsby on the blueline, the Red Wings had no shortage of star talent. But not a single one of Detroit’s skaters could beat Johnny Bower in Game 7 of the 1964 final. ‘The China Wall’ stopped all 33 shots he faced, out-duelling Terry Sawchuk to help the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup.
Montreal Canadiens (4), Chicago Black Hawks (0) – May 1, 1965
If members of the 1965 Black Hawks could go back in time to erase one period of their careers, it might just be the first frame of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. Across those 20 minutes, Montreal’s Dick Duff did an absolute number on Chicago. He assisted on Jean Beliveau’s goal just 14 seconds into the game, fired one home himself five minutes later and then Duff capped his three-point night with the helper on Yvan Cournoyer’s late-first power play goal.
Montreal Canadiens (3), Chicago Black Hawks (2) – May 18, 1971
Henri Richard had two goals, Jacques Lemaire had two points and the Canadiens came from behind to down the Black Hawks and stretch their championship drought to a decade. But the Canadiens likely would have never had the chance to get back in the contest were it not for the play of Ken Dryden, who stopped all but two of the 33 shots he faced in Game 7.
Edmonton Oilers (3), Philadelphia Flyers (1) – May 31, 1987
Ron Hextall has a Conn Smythe Trophy to show for his performance in the 1987 post-season and if the Flyers’ offense showed up in Game 7, he would have been the hero, too. After all, he stopped 40 of the 43 shots he faced on the night. It wasn’t to be, though, as Glenn Anderson’s two-point night, as well as contributions from Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Wayne Gretzky, helped Edmonton to the Cup-clinching win.
New York Rangers (3), Vancouver Canucks (2) – June 14, 1994
Adam Graves and Mark Messier each contributed two points for the Rangers in Game 7 of the 1994 final as Trevor Linden and Kirk McLean attempted to put the Canucks on their backs and lift Vancouver to the crown. The outstanding effort of Mike Richter ensured New York could snap their lengthy Stanley Cup drought, though. He stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced.
Colorado Avalanche (3), New Jersey Devils (1) – June 9, 2001
A battle between two of the greatest netminders in NHL history was won by Patrick Roy. Arguably the bigger story, however, was the contribution Colorado received from Alex Tanguay. The sophomore winger scored twice in Game 7, including the game-winning goal, and assisted on Joe Sakic’s insurance tally. It was the biggest game of his NHL career and Tanguay most definitely showed up.
New Jersey Devils (3), Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (0) – June 9, 2003
Two years later to the day, the Devils weren’t about to let another Game 7 slip through their fingers. Martin Brodeur stood tall, too, stopping all 24 shots that were sent his way. The surprise star of the contest, though, was Mike Rupp. He had one point in the entire post-season entering Game 7, but came through with the game-winning goal as part of a three point night.
Tampa Bay Lightning (2), Calgary Flames (1) – June 7, 2004
No brainer. Ruslan Fedotenko. In what was a rather dull affair in which the teams combined for 32 shots – again, that’s 32 shots total between two teams – Fedotenko managed to dent twine twice to cap off what was a dream post-season. All told, he finished the playoffs with 12 goals in 22 games, an incredible feat given he scored only 10 goals in the other 86 post-season contests in which he played.
Carolina Hurricanes (3), Edmonton Oilers (1) – June 19, 2006
Pre-lockout? Game 7 in the Stanley Cup final. Post-lockout? More of the same. There was a greater pace to play this time around, though. And while there are a few candidates for the Game 7 Hero, including Rod Brind’Amour and Aaron Ward, the nod has to go to Matt Cullen. He didn’t score, but he assisted on both the opening and game-winning goals, all the while firing four shots on goal. He made his mark.
Pittsburgh Penguins (2), Detroit Red Wings (1) – June 12, 2009
Max Talbot had the post-season of his lifetime in 2009, and he saved the best for last. One year after losing in the final to the Red Wings, Talbot ensured history wouldn’t repeat itself by scoring a pair of goals nine minutes apart in the second period of Game 7. The iconic image from the series – and the Penguins’ win – is Marc-Andre Fleury’s last-second save, but Talbot set the stage for that stop.
Boston Bruins (4), Vancouver Canucks (0) – June 15, 2011
This marked the sixth time in 10 years that the Stanley Cup final went the distance. Who knew it would also be the last time for another eight seasons? And fittingly, it’s the Bruins who are breaking the drought, and maybe Marchand and Bergeron can repeat their 2011 performances, as the former had two goals and three points and the latter scored twice. Maybe Tuukka Rask learned some Game 7 tips from Tim Thomas, too, because he was the hero of the Bruins’ last Cup win and cemented that with a 37-save shutout in the series-deciding game.
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