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.

Andrei Vasilevskiy robs Evgeny Kuznetsov (Video)

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Surely, the Washington Capitals should be leading Game 6.

They came out on fire, led by Alex Ovechkin, and stayed that way throughout the first period.

Their only problem? Andrei Vasilevskiy and the wall he put up.

Vasilevskiy needed to be solid to stop on the Capitals’ onslaught and he was, write down to the final moments of the period and his best save, a sprawling glove-hand effort to stop Evgeny Kuznetsov in his tracks on the doorstep to keep the game tied 1-1.

Fatigued? Vasilevskiy wasn’t showing any of that in the first period.

After two sub .850 outings in Games 1 and 2, Vasilevskiy has stormed back to spark the Lightning to three straight wins behind his strong play.

• Stream here
Series preview
Capitals vs. Lightning: Three questions facing each team

Capitals have to conquer postseason demons one more time
Lightning ready for a ‘desperate’ Capitals team in Game 6
Vasilevskiy turns East final around for Lightning

MORE:
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Lightning seek Stanley Cup Final berth in Game 6

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Game 6: Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals, 8 p.m. ET (Lightning lead series 3-2)
NBCSN
Call: Mike Emrick, Mike Milbury, Pierre McGuire
• Stream here
Series preview
Capitals vs. Lightning: Three questions facing each team

Capitals have to conquer postseason demons one more time
Lightning ready for a ‘desperate’ Capitals team in Game 6
Vasilevskiy turns East final around for Lightning

MORE:
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

Paul Fenton hired as new Minnesota Wild GM

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Almost exactly one month after firing Chuck Fletcher, the Minnesota Wild have found his replacement as general manager. During a Tuesday press conference, the franchise will introduce Paul Fenton as the man who will take over the job.

Fenton, who was the first person owner Craig Leipold interviewed last month, will also oversee the team’s hockey operations department and act as alternate governor

“It is my distinct pleasure to welcome Paul Fenton as the General Manager of the Minnesota Wild,” said Leipold in a statement. “Paul is uniquely suited for this job having played 10 years of professional hockey and holding 25 years of management experience in the NHL. His gift of evaluating talent is obvious in Nashville’s roster and recent success. My relationship with Paul goes back to my early days in Nashville and I know that Wild hockey fans are going to love Paul’s infectious passion for the game and unsurpassed work ethic. He’s the right person to deliver a Stanley Cup to the State of Hockey.”

It took a while — 20 years to be exact — but Fenton finally decided to leave the Nashville Predators where he spent the last dozen years as the team’s assistant GM. He played a role in building that franchise into a Stanley Cup contender and turning around their minor league system. Now in Minnesota he’ll have his work cut out for him.

The Wild made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past six seasons, but could not get past the second round. This spring they were knocked out in the first round for the third straight season, costing Fletcher his job after nine years.

Fenton will have to deal with restricted free agents Jason Zucker and Mathew Dumba with this summer, as well as face plenty of challenges in carving his roster into something that could look like a perennial contender. The long-term, cap space-eating contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter won’t help things. According to Cap Friendly, the Wild have about $7.5 million in cap space for next season, and that’s before new deals for Zucker and Dumba and potentially a $3 million increase in the ceiling.

“We want to win a Stanley Cup,” Leipold said last month via the Pioneer Press after the Wild’s first-round exit. “That doesn’t mean that that’s going to be next year. I want someone to help me with a plan for the next three or four years to win a Stanley Cup. That’s what I’m looking for.”

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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.

Islanders to hire Lou Lamoriello to run hockey operations: report

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It’s expected this week that the New York Islanders will officially announce the hiring of Lou Lamoriello to run their hockey operation department, according to Arthur Staple of The Athletic.

It’s unclear at the moment what specific role the 75-year-old Lamoriello will have within the organization. It’s possible he takes over the role of president of hockey operations or general manager, or potentially both. His son, Chris, is the Islanders’ assistant GM.

Last month, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that Lamoriello would not return as their GM after three seasons at the helm.

Staple also confirmed a Hockey30 report that Lamoriello met with Islanders captain John Tavares last week ahead of this move. Tavares is set to become an unrestricted free agent only July 1.

There are many questions to be answered as we wait for the Islanders to announce this move. First, what does this mean for the beards of Nick Leddy and Andrew Ladd, as well as the mustache of Cal Clutterbuck?

Next, where does current GM Garth Snow stand? He’s been running the show since 2006 and has a contract for at least four more seasons. The team has made the playoffs only four times during his tenure and advanced out of the first round once. The fan base demanded change once this season went off the rails, with billboards purchased in Brooklyn calling for Snow’s firing. During an end-of-season press conference in April, Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky said Snow and head coach Doug Weight would be staying for now, but that he would be “evaluating all aspects of our hockey operations.”

The next question is the biggest and that has to do with Tavares. He’s said time and time again that he wants to re-sign, but hasn’t inked an extension and hasn’t given any indication what factors would sway him one way or the other. A new arena on Long Island is coming. But is this change in management and whatever Lamoriello told him in their chat enough to convince him to not explore free agency and commit to staying with the franchise? Only time will tell. But this change could be a good first step forward for the franchise.

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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.