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.

Report: Avalanche will soon have AHL affiliate in Colorado

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There are upgrades that improve teams in dramatic ways, and then there are moves that improve quality of life.

Mike Chambers of The Denver Post reports that the Colorado Avalanche will make a tweak that would likely be a big plus in the quality of life category: starting in 2018-19, the Colorado Eagles will be their AHL affiliate. The Eagles will be bumped from an ECHL team to the AHL.

At the moment, the Avs’ affiliate is the San Antonio Rampage (pictured). So, yeah, there will be a nice advantage in a) calling players up and b) management having more opportunities to keep an eye on prospects.

The Budweiser Events Center is about a one-hour drive to the Pepsi Center according to Google Maps, depending upon traffic. So yeah, that’s an easier situation than traveling from Texas.

The Avalanche haven’t made this news official; Chambers cites two anonymous sources. With the change coming for 2018-19, it’s possible that confirmation might not come for a while. More from Chambers:

The Avs, citing their contract with the Rampage, declined comment, but vice president Jean Martineau confirmed the team’s contract with San Antonio ends after the 2017-18 season. Eagles general manager Chris Stewart could not be reached for comment.

Will Rangers fans warm up to Vigneault this season?

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This post is part of Rangers Day on PHT…

From the way many New York Rangers fans discuss Alain Vigneault, you’d think he was presiding over the era of 1997-98 to 2003-04, when the Rangers missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons.

Impressive results

From a sheer win-loss standpoint, Vigneault’s been a success, even if the Rangers haven’t been able to win it all. The Rangers’ points percentage has been at .628, almost as strong as his .632 mark with the Canucks, when AV took Vancouver within one win of that elusive Stanley Cup title.

(Breaking: things haven’t gone so smoothly for Vancouver since he left town.)

The Rangers are 192-108-28 under Vigneault. They made an unexpected run to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and also brought them to the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.

Plenty of critics

Of course, Vigneault wasn’t on the ice winning those games, and many would (understandably) attribute the Rangers’ successes to the players, most notably Henrik Lundqvist. In the eyes of many, this team’s successes come despite Vigneault.

Again, the criticisms are often as harsh as they are widespread.

Sometimes people find his defensive pairing decisions maddening. If you want to make some Rangers fans wince, just utter the name Tanner Glass. SBNation Rangers blog Blueshirt Banter provides a portal into such angst, with headlines like “Rangers demise started at the top” and failing grades for his playoff maneuvering.

Twitter can honestly get a little weird with the AV vitriol, although … maybe that’s to be expected? Consider this a random example that’s on the more, well, SFW spectrum:

Not everyone is bashing Vigneault, mind you, but his critics can sometimes resemble a chorus.

Glass floor

Of course, any passionate fan base will have its qualms with coaches. People have been discussing “the pros and cons of Alain Vigneault” for ages.

It’s easy to get caught up in your favorite team and ignore the notion that virtually every coach has “their guys.”

In this case, “their guys” means marginal players whose elevated roles leaves fans shaking their heads. Jon Cooper seemingly favored Andrej Sustr and arguably never really trusted Jonathan Drouin. Maple Leafs fans weren’t always thrilled to see, say, Roman Polak getting serious minutes. The list goes on and on.

A turning point?

With that in mind, the 2017-18 season could be an especially fascinating chapter in the love-hate affair between Rangers fans and Vigneault.

Frankly, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton took measures to protect Vigneault from himself, and those changes might just leave fans begrudgingly agreeing with more AV moves than usual … or it might send some over the edge if old habits die hard.

As much as people criticize individual moves, Vigneault made a strong argument that he’s a versatile coach in 2016-17, taking a more modern approach with the Rangers. It mostly worked, and now this team has better tools to improve their transition game.

To an extent, it’s addition by subtraction, as Dan Girardi‘s time mercifully ends, and with it the motivation for AV to give him big minutes. This opens the door for more mobile defenders to get time, such as promising young blueliner Brady Skjei.

The actual additions are most important. Kevin Shattenkirk stands, on paper, as a massive upgrade, especially if he slides into a pairing with Ryan McDonagh (who some believe has been dragged down by Girardi for years).

Another key will be how Marc Staal is used. If the emphasis shifts from Staal to Shattenkirk, McDonagh, Skjei, Brendan Smith and maybe even Anthony DeAngelo, stats-minded Rangers fans might be pleased.

Maybe most importantly for the mental health of some fans, that lure to put Glass in the lineup is also gone.

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To some extent, criticisms are just the nature of the beast for coaches in professional sports. Vigneault’s been around long enough to realize that.

Even so, the highs and lows of Vigneault can sometimes be quite dramatic, making him a polarizing subject for fans. This season should be especially interesting to watch from the perspective of Rangers fans, whether AV makes changes or continues to frustrate them in familiar ways.

Rick Nash at career crossroads in contract year

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This post is part of Rangers Day on PHT…

New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton has indeed done a great job managing the team’s salary structure. In that context, it might be tough to justify the idea of extending an aging power forward who will be 34 when his current deal expires next summer.

There are more than a few people who believe that the Rangers would be wise to bring Rick Nash back, however. Just recently, Josh Lipman made such an argument for Fansided and a similar thought surfaced from Jackson Heil of The Hockey Writers.

Of course, wherever Nash goes, he figures to see a decrease in pay – maybe a drastic drop – from the $7.8 million cap hit that expires after 2017-18.

For Nash, it’s a fork in the road during what’s been a somewhat odd career.

Nash is closing in on 500 career goals, as the winger already produced 416 in 989 regular-season games. He’s become quite the specialist in New York, scoring 127 goals vs. 97 assists in 315 contests with the Rangers.

On those playoff questions

As Rangers fans likely know too well, there have been some playoff headaches.

It’s wrong to say that Nash has never enjoyed postseason success. In 19 games during their 2015 run, he managed 14 points. He also had four points in what was otherwise a miserable five-game series for the Rangers against the Penguins in 2016.

His strange run of bad luck resurfaced this past postseason, so for all we know, Nash might not ever fully silence critics regarding his supposed lack of “clutch play.”

Best option available?

When people picture Nash’s future, many envision him hitting the free agent market in 2018.

The Rangers might not be so wise to outright dismiss bringing Nash back, though. New York boasts some nice forwards, but it’s plausible that Nash could remain one of their most reliable snipers, even at an advanced age. Lipman points out that Nash easily outclasses other Rangers during his time with the team from a sniping perspective; while he generated 127 goals during that time, the second-most prolific scorer was Derek Stepan, who only managed 90.

It’s worth noting that, despite being limited to 67 regular-season games in 2016-17, Nash still scored 23 goals. Nash generated 42 goals as recently as 2014-15, which was one of his only healthy campaigns with the Rangers.

Now, it’s rarely safe to assume that a player will become more durable as he ages, so that’s another concern to consider.

Still, if the price is reasonable, Nash brings a lot to the table.

The 2017-18 season stands as a year that could have a huge impact on Nash’s future. The Rangers should at least keep an open mind about being a part of his future beyond this next season.

Butcher not seeking guaranteed NHL roster spot

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Even with numerous suitors lining up to try and sign him, Will Butcher isn’t making any unreasonable demands as a free agent.

Case in point, the 22-year-old defensemen — the same guy who just won the Hobey Baker Award after a terrific senior year at the University of Denver — isn’t saying he needs to play in the NHL next season.

“What ends up winning the day, I’m not sure,” Butcher’s agent, Brain Bartlett, told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we have not told teams that if you don’t have an NHL spot for him in training camp, don’t bother even calling. It’s quite the opposite.”

Perhaps Butcher is using Justin Schultz‘s experience in Edmonton as a guide. Schultz, a highly sought-after college free agent in the summer of 2012, was thrown right into the deep end with the Oilers, and only the Pittsburgh Penguins could save him from drowning.

Not to suggest Schultz made unreasonable demands of the Oilers — he insisted he wasn’t guaranteed ice time — but Edmonton’s blue line was so bereft of talent that he got it all the same.

Given what Bartlett had to say, it may be that Butcher is looking for a team that, above all else, can guarantee his proper development.

The NHL ice time can come when he’s ready for it.

Related: Devils, Sabres, Vegas reportedly in on Butcher