Tag: game previews

Pavel Datsyuk, Joe Pavelski

The greatest Game 7 heroes in NHL history (and who might become one tonight)


A lot of people think that it’s unfair that the playoffs can make or break players’ legacies. It’s reasonable to feel uncomfortable about that since the sample size is so small, but there’s no doubt that lasting memories are made when everyone can focus on one game. The fact that tonight’s Detroit Red Wings-San Jose Sharks match is a Game 7 only intensifies that scrutiny.

The fact that Game 7s are still technically one game means that lesser known players can often steal the spotlight. Maxime Talbot scored two goals against the Red Wings in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals to win the Pittsburgh Penguins’ third championship. Mike Rupp came out of nowhere to score the game-winning goal and two other assists in the New Jersey Devils’ most recent Cup win. Ruslan Fedotenko scored two goals to help the Tampa Bay Lightning win their only Cup in a similarly surprising fashion.

Still, when The Hockey News named its top 10 all-time Game 7 performances, most of the biggest games were provided by the biggest names. Perhaps it only makes sense that the sport’s most famous star also happened to top the list of performers in the league’s highest profile games:

3. Mark Messier, Rangers, 1994

The Rangers captain famously guaranteed a win against New Jersey in the Eastern Conference final, then followed that up with the Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 7 against Vancouver.

2. Ron Hextall, Philadelphia, 1987

It’s rare to see the Conn Smythe Trophy given to a member of the losing team, but that’s what happened to Hextall in Philly’s Cup final series loss to the Oilers. Hextall made 40 saves in a losing cause in the Flyers’ Game 7, 3-1 loss and was spectacular throughout the series.

1. Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles, 1993

During the Campbell Conference final between Toronto and the Kings, Gretzky put up arguably the best single-game showing of his unrivaled career, recording a hat trick and virtually willing L.A. to victory over a plucky, Doug Gilmour-led Leafs squad.

(If you here some rumbling from Toronto, their words might sound like “high-stick!”)

NHL.com provides its list of three unlikely heroes from each side, but I thought I might throw out a few more anticipated names who might come through for their teams.

Most likely Detroit heroes

Nicklas Lidstrom – He leads the Red Wings in points in Game 7s and factored into some of the team’s most important goals in this series already. Most signs indicate he should be back to play next season, but if he has doubts, he’ll obviously want to keep this run alive.

Pavel Datsyuk – Despite shrugging off an injured wrist, the all-world forward is still an irresistible force.

Henrik Zetterberg – He’s often overshadowed by Datsyuk, but Zetterberg is a dynamic two-way player in his own right and was the team’s top regular season scorer with 80 points.

Niklas Kronwall – Kronwall is showing signs of returning to the form that made him seem like the “next big thing” on the Detroit blueline a couple years ago. He gets most of his attention from those bone-crushing checks, but Kronwall can score points too.

Most likely San Jose heroes

Devin Setoguchi – He scored the OT-winner to clinch the Sharks’ historic comeback against the Kings and already has an OT winner against the Red Wings in this series. This would solidify the belief that he’s a thorn in Detroit’s side.

Joe Thornton – Jumbo Joe already has a playoff series-clinching goal this year. Would another one turn his critics’ volume down that much more?

Joe Pavelski – “The Big Pavelski” has been gold in the last two postseasons for San Jose.

Dan Boyle – The Sharks’ greatest weapon from the blueline has a Stanley Cup ring on his resume and plenty of scoring ability.


Of course, the Hollywood ending would involve Patrick Marleau either coming up huge for his team or blowing the game in a tragic way. We’ll see what happens tonight, but in the mean time: who do you think will be the biggest difference-maker?

Red Wings hold significant Game 7 experience advantage over Sharks

Nicklas Lidstrom

All that really matters is what happens tonight – not what happened in the previous six games, not anymore, at least – but there’s no denying that the Detroit Red Wings hold some advantages over the San Jose Sharks.

One is the looseness that comes with not having to worry about being on the wrong side of history. The other is another kind of history: Red Wings players have almost twice as much Game 7 experience as the Sharks. In fact, according to an NHL.com report, every Red Wings player has some Game 7 experience.

It shouldn’t be too surprising, really, considering Detroit’s 20-year run of playoff appearances (with many of them running deep). While 11 Sharks players have played in a Game 7 before, 21 Red Wings have been in this situation.* Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is 2-2 in his coaching career in Game 7s while Sharks coach Todd McLellan is 0-0.

Perhaps most telling is the Game 7 scoring statistics. Nicklas Lidstrom leads Detroit with seven points in Game 7 situations with two goals and five assists while Niclas Wallin is the Sharks’ most experienced player in Game 7s, having played in four in his career. San Jose’s Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi managed to accomplish that feat without playing a single Game 7.

Here’s a bit more from NHL.com.

Scoring in Game 7s is no different. The Red Wings have scored 17 goals and 39 points in their plethora of Game 7s, while the Sharks have tallied just 3 goals and 4 points in their 11. Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard also has one Game 7 to his credit, beating the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round last season, while neither San Jose goalie — Antti Niemi or backup Antero Niittymaki — has played in an NHL Game 7.

This will be Mike Modano’s first Game 7 with Detroit, but he’s played in plenty of them during his lengthy and impressive career with the Dallas Stars.

“The nerves are very high, obviously,” he said. “You just want to be quick, you want to be precise in what you do, you want to be very direct in your play as far as with the puck and without it. Ultimately you want to skate, you want to relax and take the plays that are there and not force the issue, especially on the road. I’ve never been in one on the road, so it’s just about playing smart.”

It’s also about enjoying the moment and the nail-biting that comes with it.

“Those Game 7s have a lot of drama,” Modano said. “Every shot, every save and everything that happens out there is magnified.”

Almost every playoff game brings its unique excitements, but few things match the scale and suspense of Game 7. We’ll keep you informed and entertained right up until the first nail-biting puck drop (and beyond).

* – Well, not this exact situation, since the Red Wings have never come back from a 3-0 deficit before.

Red Wings face elimination once again vs. the Sharks in Game 6

Detroit Red Wings v San Jose Sharks - Game Five

The San Jose Sharks face three scenarios going into tonight’s Game 6 against the Red Wings in Detroit:

1. They can win tonight and rest until Sunday’s Game 1 against the Vancouver Canucks.
2. They can win a stressful Game 7 on Thursday, robbing them of two extra nights of rest.
3. They can lose both games and become just the fourth team in NHL history to lose a series after building a 3-0 lead, undeniably etching them in history as some of the biggest “chokers” the sport has ever seen.

The Canucks avoided another near-collapse by finishing off the Nashville Predators last night, but the Sharks might face even more pressure in this Game 6. The Red Wings managed to win Game 5 thanks to frantic (yet borderline inevitable?) comeback from a 3-1 third period deficit, so the choking calls are already building. It’s hard not to wonder if the Sharks would be a little tight in a Game 7 considering the collective psyche of their team and fans.

San Jose @ Detroit (Versus) – 8 p.m. ET; Sharks lead series 3-2

Both teams will be without key contributors as Ryane Clowe didn’t make the trip to Detroit and Johan Franzen won’t play because of an ankle injury. Mike Modano will suit up in Franzen’s place for what might be the future Hall of Famer’s final game.

All five games in this series were decided by one goal, so it’ll be interesting to see if we’re in for another close contest.

Interestingly enough, Stats Inc. points out that the Sharks hope to avoid repeating history from 2002 while the Red Wings are hoping to repeat it. That playoff year marked the last time the Sharks gave up a 3-2 series lead and the most recent instance in which Detroit came back from that exact deficit. Both teams experienced those moments against the Colorado Avalanche, by the way.

While Sharks fans might cringe at a possible Game 7 while Red Wings fans are hoping for at least one more game, the rest of the hockey world would probably be delighted to see two more games between these teams.

There won’t be any NHL playoff hockey until Saturday, anyway, so why not?