Game 7 history

Game 7 history for Ovechkin, Capitals

9 Comments

Round 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs ends on Wednesday with the Washington Capitals hosting the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Stream here).

This series has already been a study in contrasts, and the “old vs. new” storyline really pops when you consider the Game 7 experience of both teams.

While the Hurricanes employ “Mr. Game 7” Justin Williams (a nickname that makes him grit his teeth, apparently), the team as a whole is mostly new to this. It says a lot, really, that current Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour was the team’s captain in 2008-09, which was the last time the Hurricanes a) made a playoff run and b) played in Game 7s.

While the Hurricanes recently broke a decade-long playoff drought, the Capitals have only missed the playoffs once (2013-14) since 2007-08, so if you want to get cute about it, this is almost the matchup of “Mr. Game 7 vs. Team Game 7s.”

Well, the Capitals are team Game 7s by volume, more than overall success. Now that we’ve acknowledged Justin Williams as Our Elimination Overlord, and recall that Jordan Staal‘s been here before – albeit a long time ago – let’s consider the Capitals’ recent history in these deciding games, with copious assistance from the all-around wonderful resource that is Hockey Reference.com.

2008 

April 22, first round: Flyers 3, Capitals 2 (OT) 

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Nicklas Backstrom was on one of his hotter sniping runs then, as he is now, as the Swede scored his fourth goal of that postseason in this defeat. Alex Ovechkin got a goal and a primary assist, authoring the first chapter in his anthology of being scapegoated despite strong playoff play. Ovechkin finished the 2008 run with four goals and five assists for nine points in seven playoff games; so far during this 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Ovechkin has four goals and four assists for eight points in six contests.

Joffrey Lupul ended up scoring the overtime-clincher in that long-ago Game 7.

2009

April 28, first round: Capitals 2, Rangers 1

Some early evidence that Washington was able to grind out ugly, playoff-style wins, even then. While Backstrom nabbed an assist, this win was heavy on old names. Semyon Varlamov was only tasked with making 14 saves. Alexander Semin was a goal scorer and so was … Sergei Fedorov. Yes, in case you forgot, Fedorov briefly played for the Capitals.

May 13, second round: Penguins 6, Capitals 2

For some Caps fans, there are still scars from this loss.

After this series lived up to the hype for six games (remember dueling hat tricks between Sidney Crosby and Ovechkin?), the Game 7 match was mostly anticlimactic. Ovechkin had tormented Marc-Andre Fleury for much of that Round 2, yet MAF made a huge save early, and the Penguins scored the game’s first five goals to win handily. Ovechkin managed his 11th goal of that playoff run, but absorbed one of his earliest rounds of excessive playoff blame.

2010

April 28, first round: Canadiens 2, Capitals 1

Speaking of scarring moments …

The Capitals were a buzzsaw in 2009-10, until they ran into Jaroslav Halak, who enjoyed a spectacular run where he confounded both the Caps and the Penguins. Washington generated a gaudy 42-16 SOG advantage in this Game 7, yet the Habs completed their upset win thanks largely to Halak playing out of his mind.

It felt like Michael Cammalleri scored every Montreal goal during their run, but it was Marc-Andre Bergeron and Dominic Moore who scored in this Game 7. Ovechkin settled for an assist despite firing 10 of those 42 SOG.

This was the first Capitals Game 7 of the PHT era, so check out Ovechkin taking responsibility for his struggles.

2012

April 25, first round: Capitals 2, Bruins 1 (OT)

The Dale Hunter era was brief in Washington, and honestly … mercifully so. Those Capitals series were tough to watch, what with Ovechkin receiving reduced ice time, although it helped Braden Holtby write the first bullet points in what’s becoming an impressive playoff resume.

May 12, second round: Rangers 2, Capitals 1

Henrik Lundqvist got the best of Holtby and the Capitals in a close, clogged-up Game 7. Luckily, Barry Trotz helped the Capitals find a better balance between playing snug defense and still accentuating their offensive strengths, because the Hunter era was not pretty.

2013

May 13, first round: Rangers 5, Capitals 0

The Penguins rank as the Capitals’ biggest historic nuisance, but Henrik Lundqvist must come in a respectable second place, right? Lundqvist pitched a Game 7 shutout, prompting Backstrom to play into narrative hands by discussing the Capitals “learning to win in the playoffs.”

2015

April 27, first round: Capitals 2, Islanders 1

Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s had some time to perfect celebrations in big situations.

He’s really added that extra skilled player to the Capitals’ mix (along with T.J. Oshie), and Kuznetsov has a certain “ice water in his veins” tendency. It’s not his most famous goal, but Kuznetsov scored the game-winner in Game 7 against the Islanders here.

May 13, second round: Rangers 2, Capitals 1 (OT)

Ovechkin scored the first goal of Game 7, telling Lundqvist that it was going to be a long day. That was some fun trash talk, but it was Lundqvist who was laughing in the end, once again, after Derek Stepan scored the overtime game-winner. Holtby played admirably in defeat, as he’s been a reliable big-game performer for the Capitals for some time.

2017

May 10, second round: Penguins 2, Capitals 0

Remember when this was supposed to be the end of a window for Stanley Cup chances for Washington, or at least the Capitals’ best chances?

The Caps showed why they won a second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy by gritting their way out of a 3-1 deficit against the Penguins, but that was forgotten once Washington lost this tight, heartbreaking game to Pittsburgh. This represented Fleury’s last moment of one-upping Ovechkin before he was Vegas-bound.

Trotz was shaken by the Game 7 loss and deflected questions about Ovechkin, etc. The next year became hockey history, but this sure seemed to put the wheels in motion for Trotz to leave, anyway, right?

2018

May 23, third round: Capitals 4, Lightning 0

Ovechkin scored what would stand as the game-winner just 62 seconds in, Tom Wilson collected two assists, and Andre Burakovsky‘s two second-period goals really iced this one (with Backstrom pitching in an empty-netter for good measure). Wilson also got into a fight, while Holtby managed a 29-save shutout. If there’s a BINGO board for the Capitals in Game 7 situations, then you’d probably win with that combination.

Who would have thought that the Lightning would suffer far greater heartache during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, by the way? (Too soon?)

***

As you can see, the Capitals’ big guns often show up in Game 7 contests, particularly Ovechkin and Holtby, yet they don’t always come away with those series wins. The Hurricanes might be wise to assume that they’ll only be able to contain, not stop, Ovechkin. The veteran star sure seems to begin his Game 7 performances with early goals, so that’s another situation to watch.

Overall, it should be a fun Game 7, even if it’s a familiar experience for the Capitals.

Hurricanes – Capitals Game 7 takes place at Capital One Arena on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN; Stream here).

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins coach on Game 7 resume: “You’ve got to like the experience you have”

10 Comments

The Boston Bruins seemed oddly calm about being down 3-2 to the Washington Capitals, but the reasoning was pretty simple: they’ve been there before. Speaking of which, the Bruins’ core has certainly been through the tensions of a Game 7 a lot lately. Counting this first round matchup, four of Boston’s last five series* went the distance, so Claude Julien didn’t deny the potential benefits to Stephen Whyno.

“There [are] no guarantees but you’ve got to like the experience you have,” Julien said.

While the Bruins’ recent Game 7 memories are mostly warm and fuzzy, the Alex Ovechkin-era Capitals haven’t fared as well in those decisive showdowns:

2007-08: Lost to Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7
2008-09: Won seven game series against Rangers, then lost miserably in Game 7 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
2009-10: Lost a tight seven game series to the Montreal Canadiens.
2010-11: No seven-game series.

So if history is a harbinger of things to come on Wednesday, then the Bruins should be confident. That being said, aside from blowing out the Vancouver Canucks to win the Stanley Cup, last year’s Game 7’s probably turned quite a few Bruins fans into chronic nail-biters.

Then again, it would only be fitting if there was next to no margin of error considering how this series has gone, right?

* – Actually, five of their last six, but something tells me that the Bruins probably won’t use that infamous reverse sweep loss to the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers as a bullet point.

Red Wings and Sharks will look to history to provide inspiration tonight

For the eighth time in NHL history a team has forced a Game 7 after being down 0-3 in the series. Detroit will attempt to be the fourth team to come all the way back after being put on the brink of elimination. While it’s incredible that they could swing the percentages of teams that come back from being down so badly to win to 50% should they pull it off.

While the Sharks will look to the Vancouver Canucks from this year’s playoffs for inspiration on how to get things done in Game 7, the Red Wings will be taking a look back through history both recent and distant for inspiration.

The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs were down 0-3 to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals that season. Thanks to the goaltending of Turk Broda, the heroics of Don Metz, and the leadership of Syl Apps the Leafs were able to accomplish the feat for the only time it would happen in the Cup-deciding series. While those days saw just a small handful of teams in the NHL, roaring back from the brink of defeat was still a rarity and the guts of that Leafs team set the example for future teams on how to get things done. Broda earned a shutout in Game 6 of that series while Metz earned a hat trick in Game 4 to light the spark for the comeback.

The 1975 New York Islanders weren’t one of the heroic Stanley Cup winners that made the Isles famous, but that team was loaded with guys who would eventually become legends on the Island and their comeback from 3-0 down against the Pittsburgh Penguins proved to be a rallying point for legends like Denis Potvin, Bob Nystrom, Clark Gillies, and Bob Bourne. While goaltender Billy Smith is the name guy on that team, the man who sparked things for them that year was current Devils broadcaster Glenn “Chico” Resch who coach Al Arbour put in to shake the team up. It worked as Resch led the Islanders the rest of the way through the series as the Isles dominated play on the way to delivering heartbreak to the Penguins.

Last season we all remember for the Flyers remarkable comeback that saw them roar back from down 3-0 in the series to beat the Bruins in seven games. Making that series all the more fascinating is how Game 7 itself played out. At one point the Bruins led the final game 3-0 only to see the Flyers roar back one more time and break the Bruins hearts all over again with it all starting with a James van Riemsdyk goal late in the first to quell the B’s momentum. The rest was history as the Flyers would chip away and win 4-3 in the game and the series.

For Detroit, should they get down early against San Jose tonight looking to last year would be ideal. Of course, Detroit has yet to show any signs of ever giving up in this series when they’ve fallen behind. The Sharks are more than aware of that now and they don’t need history from last year or even 60 years ago to teach them that.

While we don’t know what we’re in store for tonight, history shows us that anything can happen and if you’re someone that believes in things balancing out overall, you’re leaning on the Red Wings. If you’re a believer that the better team will win out, you might be leaning towards the Sharks. If the Sharks don’t clean things up a bit after sloppy play in Games 5 and 6, they’ll have an agonizing summer to think things over. Either way, the drama is set to be sky high tonight.