Looking back at Game 7 matches in Stanley Cup finals history

(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.

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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.

Bruins anthem singer Rene Rancourt and his fist pumps to retire after this season

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For over 40 years, the Boston Bruins have featured Rene Rancourt as their anthem singer. On Wednesday, the team announced that the colorful crooner will be hanging up his microphone after this season.

The 78-year-old Rancourt, a trained opera singer, actually began his anthem singing career performing before Boston Red Sox games. He was brought on board by the Bruins after a performance prior to Game 6 of the 1975 World Series — The Carlton Fisk Homerun Game — when he subbed in for Kate Smith.

“I knew practically nothing about hockey,” Rancourt told Joshua Kloke of Vice Sports in 2016. “I didn’t even know where the Boston Garden was.”

Quite the character, Rancourt quickly became a staple before games and over time became known for his fist pumps, which energize crowds nightly, and his salute. The fist pumps were inspired by former Bruin Randy Burridge’s “stump pump” celebration after goals.

If you were lucky, the wedding or other event you were attending would be interrupted by Rancourt’s appearance to belt out a couple of tunes. It was also an annual tradition to see him sing Christmas carols during Bruins games every December.

Rancourt will be honored during the Bruins’ final regular season game on April 8. It will be interesting to see how many fist pumps his pulls off during his last appearance at TD Garden, whenever that may happen this spring.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Six NHL rookies that are flying under the radar this season

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The NHL’s rookie class for the 2017-18 season is an impressive one with what is sure to be a tightly contested Calder Trophy race at the top.

Forwards Mathew Barzal (New York Islanders), Brock Boeser (Vancouver Canucks), and Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes), as well as defensemen Charlie McAvoy (Boston Bruins) and Mikhail Sergachev (Tampa Bay Lightning) are all making tremendous impacts for their teams this season and are clearly the cream of the crop when it comes to first-year players around the league.

One of them (most likely Barzal or Boeser) is going to take home the Calder Trophy this season.

But they are not the only rookies that are standing out this season.

Let’s take a look at five more whose performances have slid under the radar. None of these players will end up winning the rookie of the year award this season, but they have been key contributors to their teams so far and deserve some credit for it.

Danton Heinen, Boston Bruins

The Bruins are a really intriguing team in the East. They have three of the best forwards in the league at the top of their lineup, a goalie that is capable of carrying the team when he gets hot, and they have rebuilt their defense over the past couple of years. They are also getting a ton of contributions from rookies. McAvoy has already blossomed into a top-pairing defenseman, and Jake DeBrusk, a 2015 first-round pick, is currently on a 20-goal pace.

They also have Heinen, a 22-year-old forward that is getting his first full-time look in the NHL.

Currently he is fourth among all NHL rookies in scoring with 38 points, while his 0.82 point per game average is third behind only Barzal and Boeser.

He has been especially good on a line with veteran forward David Backes. When Backes and Heinen are on the ice together during 5-on-5 play the Bruins are controlling 60 percent of the shot attempts and outscoring teams by a 14-10 margin (via NaturalStatTrick).

Alexander Kerfoot, Colorado Avalanche

After choosing to not sign with the team that drafted him, the New Jersey Devils, Kerfoot became an unrestricted free agent this past summer and ended up landing an opportunity with the Colorado Avalanche. It has paid off immediately for everyone.

The Avalanche are in surprising contention for a playoff spot this season, even after trading Matt Duchene, thanks in large part to the breakout year from Nathan MacKinnon.

Another key contributor this season has been the 23-year-old Kerfoot.

In his debut season he’s already recorded 30 points in 40 games and has been one of the team’s top point producers.

The Avalanche have been a disaster on the ice in recent seasons, but they are exceeding expectations this season and their top-four scorers (MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Kerfoot) are all age 25 or younger. Landeskog is the only one of that quartet that is over the age 23. And they also still have 19-year-old Tyson Jost.

There is still a pretty good young core here to build around.

Yanni Gourde, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning are looking absolutely terrifying this season — and for future seasons given their contract situations — with a bunch of superstars at the top of the lineup and a bunch of young, talented, cheap players sprinkled around them. We mentioned Sergachev up above as one of the Calder Trophy leaders, and they also have second-year forward Brayden Point lighting up the scoreboard (Point, by the way, is the third-leading scorer on the team).

Then there’s Yanni Gourde.

Gourde barely makes the rookie cut this season because he turned 26 in December and had played in 20 games a season ago, but by NHL rules he does still qualify as a rookie.

The Lightning have excelled in recent seasons by building around talented, undersized forwards that are capable of putting the puck in the net and Gourde is just the latest example. Listed at only 5-9, 172 pounds, Gourde is one of the smallest players in the league. Before getting his first real shot in the NHL he had been a productive player at pretty much every level of hockey that he played at.

He earned a regular spot with the Lightning this season and has proven to be a valuable addition. Along with his offensive production (14 goals, 16 assists in 44 games) he has also been a key contributor to their penalty kill.

Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins weren’t expecting to need Jarry this season, but when the Antti Niemi experiment proved to be a failure their plans had to change a little. So far, he has been excellent as Matt Murray‘s backup and has filled in admirably for him while Murray has been away from the team dealing with a personal family matter. With Murray again away from the team following his father’s passing this week Jarry is going to get even more opportunities to play in the immediate future.

So far this season Jarry is 9-3-2 in his 15 appearances and has a .923 save percentage that is tops among rookie goaltenders (minimum 15 games played).

Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets have become one of the NHL’s most dynamic offenses with Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, and Nikolaj Ehlers are all shining at the top of the lineup.

They also have 2015 first-round pick Kyle Connor starting to make an impact.

Connor is currently third among all rookie forwards in goals scored, but is second only to Boeser when it comes to goals per game.

He is currently on what would be a 30-goal pace over 82 games.

The Jets’ rebuild has been slow — painfully slow, and probably slower than it needed to be — but their patience and desire to build almost entirely from within is finally starting to be rewarded with this group of forwards.

If they can keep getting solid goaltending they are going to be a tough team to knock out of the playoffs.

Jesper Bratt, New Jersey Devils

The Devils are another team that is getting significant contributions from rookies this season.

Currently the Devils are in a playoff position in the Metropolitan Division and are looking to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011-12. Leading the way is a trio of rookies that are all among the team’s top-four scorers. Included in that group are No. 1 overall pick Nico Hischier and free agent signing Will Butcher.

It should not be much of a surprise that Hischier has played well and made an immediate impact. That is what you hope — and expect — from a No. 1 overall pick. Butcher has been outstanding and is currently the team’s top possession player.

The biggest surprise out of the group, though, might be 19-year-old Jesper Bratt, a sixth-round pick by the Devils in 2016.

Through the Devils’ first 42 games, Bratt is second on the team in scoring, is seventh among all rookies, and is playing close to two minutes on the penalty kill per night … as a 19-year-old rookie.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Banged up Blue Jackets add Jussi Jokinen off waivers

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The Columbus Blue Jackets are dealing with a number of injuries up front with Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson and rookie Sonny Milano all currently sidelined for at least a few more weeks due to injury.

Atkinson is on long-term injured reserve due to a foot injury, while Dubinsky is out due to an orbital bone fracture.

The team also announced on Wednesday that Milano will now be sidelined for 4-to-6 weeks due to an oblique tear.

All of that has put a pretty significant dent in their depth and no doubt played a role in their recent slump that has seen them go 3-6-0 over their past nine games, a stretch that has seen them score just 18 goals (only two per game).

They attempted to address that in some way on Wednesday when they announced that they have claimed veteran forward Jussi Jokinen off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings.

“Jussi Jokinen is a player we know very well. He can line up at center or either wing, is good in the faceoff circle and can play on the power play and kill penalties,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement released by the team.

“He has been a very good player in the National Hockey League for many years and we believe he will add great experience and versatility to our lineup.”

It’s been a difficult season for Jokinen as he now joins his third team of the season. He started the season with the Edmonton Oilers after signing a one-year, $1.1 million contract in free agency. But after just 14 games and zero goals with the team he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Mike Cammalleri. He played 18 games with the Kings, scoring one goal and adding four assists, before being placed on waivers.

Jokinen has been an underrated player for much of his career and had always been good for around 15 goals and 50 points over 82 games. Now that he is in his age 34 season that production has obviously declined.

But with the injury situation up front with Atkinson, Dubinsky and now Milano all sidelined the Blue Jackets were in desperate need of adding some additional depth. Given the low cost it is worth a shot to see if Jokinen can still provide something.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Matt Murray to miss ‘indefinite period of time’ following passing of his father

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Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray has missed the past two games and was briefly away from the team due to what was described as a personal matter. The team would not go into any details and asked everyone to respect his privacy.

On Wednesday, the Penguins announced that Murray’s father, James Murray, passed away on Tuesday in Ontario.

Murray had briefly returned to the Penguins over the weekend and even accompanied the team on its current west coast road trip but his status remained listed as “day-to-day.”

The Penguins announced that Murray will be traveling back from the west coast to return to Ontario.

He will miss an indefinite period of time according to the team..

In his absence the Penguins will turn to rookies Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith in net. Jarry has played well in his opportunities this season posting a .923 save percentage and a 9-2-3 record. He has won each of his past four decisions.

The Penguins are in Anaheim on Wednesday before traveling to Los Angeles on Thursday to play the Kings and then going to San Jose on Saturday night.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.