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Your Boston Bruins-Vancouver Canucks 2011 Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 primer

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This is it, ladies and gentlemen. At this point, you’ve heard all the cliches about boyhood dreams of heroic imaginary moments carried out in backyard rinks and the streets of various burbs. Tonight’s game is for all the marbles and every other go-to description for a single contest that decides an annual NHL champion.

The hockey world couldn’t ask for a much more peculiar and entertaining first six games, either. The first three games in Vancouver were tense, nail-biting affairs. A couple bad bounces against the Canucks might have stripped their chances of even getting this far (or at least changed the makeup of this series). Meanwhile, it’s likely that you already know about the jaw-dropping 17-3 disparity in goals for the Bruins in their games in Boston.

Of course, Game 7’s tend to throw out the rulebook (and not just because officials rarely use their whistles). Tonight’s game could go either way, so it should make for some fascinating TV.

Boston @ Vancouver (NBC) – 8 p.m. ET; Series tied 3-3

Despite the numerous storylines buzzing around this strange and captivating series, it seems like it always comes back to Tim Thomas vs. Roberto Luongo.

As you’ve heard before, Thomas probably has the Conn Smythe Trophy locked up already, but there might be a subset of people out there who won’t give his odd style full credit unless he wins The Big One. It might be an honorable group, but Thomas probably doesn’t want to get heaped in the “great in defeat” bin with Ron Hextall and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

That’s still an enviable position compared to the pressure heaped upon Luongo right now; even a great performance in defeat probably won’t wipe away the stain of his three awful games in Beantown. It’s unfair to downplay all of his career accomplishments because of a handful of bad nights, but it’s no doubt that is how most people will feel if he loses Game 7.

Want more Game 7 meat to chew on? Devour these clips from PHT.

Report: Mark Recchi is expected to retire whether the Bruins win or lose Game 7

Mark Recchi

There are plenty of great storylines going into Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, but many people love to rally around a last gasp plot. For that reason, expect numerous casual fans to root for 43-year-old Boston Bruins forward Mark Recchi to go out a champion.

The original thought was that he would do just that if the Bruins raised the Stanley Cup, but it sounds like he might hang up his skates either way. That’s the word from “sources close to Recchi” according to ESPN Boston’s James Murphy. While it’s not something that officially came from the old horse’s mouth, it seems like a pretty reasonable conclusion for a guy who has seen and done just about everything in a 22-year career.

By the end of tonight, we’ll know if he ends up winning or losing what might be the last game of his NHL career. We’ll need to wait a little longer to see if he gains a final victory of a Hall of Fame induction, but you can feel free to debate the merits of that idea in this poll.

Mark Recchi hopes to finish his NHL career with another Stanley Cup victory

Mark Recchi

One of the sadder sights in sports comes when a once-great player hangs on way too long. While I don’t begrudge an athlete for getting every ounce of playing time out of their bodies before retirement is forced upon them, it often remains a sad thing to see.

The great play of seemingly over-the-hill players during the 2010-11 season and its accompanying postseason has been a heartening storyline. Nicklas Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne didn’t just belong on the ice despite being in the plus-40 club, they remained among the better (if not best) players in their positions.

Mark Recchi probably has a foot in each side right now. His speed is diminished to the extent that he can’t always get where he wants to go, but his fantastic instincts and solid finishing ability help him to remain an asset. He’s not just out there because of the name on the back of his jersey.

Still, at 43 years old, he must realize that he’s almost certainly in the twilight of his career. With that in mind, Recchi hopes to go out a Stanley Cup winner (he admitted that he would retire for sure if the Boston Bruins win the Cup, for one thing). After fielding criticism late in the Tampa Bay Lightning series and early in the Cup finals, Recchi has burned his critics once again, scoring a goal in Game 2, two goals in Game 3 and collecting three assists in Game 6. That works out to a point per game average in the championship round at 43, leading all scorers in the series. He spoke to NHL.com about Wednesday possibly being the final game of his NHL career.

“It crosses my mind, but, you know, I have a job to do out there for the guys and I can’t put those thoughts in my head,” Recchi said if he had thought Game 6 could have been his last. “I’m going to lay it on the line one more time and see where it takes me after that. No matter what, it’s been a great 22 years, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. This has been one of my best ones, regardless of what happens, and I’m just still proud to play in the NHL.”

One more Cup victory would be a tidy finish to a great career. He would also finish the playoffs the same way he began his playoff career at 22 years old: with a Stanley Cup raised over his head. He made his first postseason appearance in his third season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, scoring 34 points in 24 games for his greatest playoff run ever. The Penguins then decided to trade him to the Philadelphia Flyers the following season, so he wouldn’t get a chance to repeat with that team. Despite being a productive player for years since, it took him 15 years to win it all again when he won a Cup with the 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes.

Recchi has accomplished just about anything he could have hoped for, so there would be no shame in retiring whether he wins or loses on Wednesday. That being said, you can’t blame him for pulling for one last sip from the Cup.

How the Bruins, Canucks performed in previous Game 7’s in the 2011 playoffs

Tim Thomas, Nathan Horton

Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals is uncharted territory for these editions of the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. It’s actually the first time the Bruins franchise has ever been in a Game 7 in the championship round while the Canucks hope to be more successful than the 1994 edition was against the New York Rangers.

That being said, both teams have already experienced Game 7 matches in earlier rounds of the 2011 playoffs, so it’s not like they’ll feel totally out of place on Wednesday night. Let’s take a look at how each team played in their Game 7 contests.

April 26, 2011 – Canucks beat Blackhawks 2-1 (OT)

Goal scorers: Jonathan Toews scored for Chicago; Alex Burrows scored both of Vancouver’s tallies.

Roberto Luongo’s performance: 31 out of 32 saves made.

Summary: Luongo came into this Game 7 with about as much pressure as a goalie could endure in a first round series. He responded brilliantly, making huge stop after huge stop although Toews beat him on what could have been a heart-breaking shorthanded goal in the waning moments of regulation. Burrows scored the early goal and then nearly became the goat by taking a penalty in overtime. He redeemed himself by scoring the game-winning goal by exploiting a Chris Campoli turnover.

Defining video

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April 27, 2011 – Boston beats Montreal 4-3 (OT)

Goal scorers: Yannick Weber, Tomas Plekanec and P.K. Subban for Montreal; Johnny Boychuk, Mark Recchi, Chris Kelly and Nathan Horton for Boston.

Tim Thomas’ performance: Thomas stopped 34 out of 37 shots against the Habs.

Summary: The Bruins’ special teams flopped almost comically in this game, allowing two Montreal power play goals and a disturbing shorthanded tally by Plekanec. Boston made their bones through most of this year’s playoffs by playing great in 5-on-5 situations and this Game 7 was no exception. They stormed off to an early 2-0 lead before stumbling a bit, but didn’t allow stomach punching moments to derail their hard work. Thomas made 31 out of 31 saves and Boston out-scored Montreal 4-0 in even strength situations, including Horton’s bombastic overtime game-winner.

Defining video

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May 27, 2011 – Bruins beat Lightning 1-0

Goal scorer: Nathan Horton for Boston

Tim Thomas’ performance: Thomas made 24 out of 24 saves for a shutout.

Summary: As phenomenal as Dwayne Roloson was (making 37 out of 38 saves), the Bruins finally played the suffocating defensive style that they rarely maintained against Tampa Bay for most of the series. Thomas earned his shutout while Horton scored the game’s only goal on a tip-in after being exonerated of water bottle-throwing charges (although he did face a $2,500 slap on the wrist fine for the infraction).

Defining video

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As you can see, both goalies have had a great Game 7 performance already in these playoffs. There’s evidence that Luongo can bounce back from embarrassing moments but there is also proof that Thomas can close out an opponent even amid in-game setbacks. Each team won those games at home, though, so the Bruins will have to break that trend by winning Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals on the road (and become one of the few in NHL history to do so in the process).

Looking back at Game 7 matches in Stanley Cup finals history

Sidney Crosby

(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.


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.