| The anatomy of a Game
Series-deciders promise to offer thrills and
4/19/04 - by John Cook
Game 7. Life or death. Who is going to be the hero? Who is going to
play the role of Steve Smith? For six teams, they will soon know the answer.
Some of the greatest games in NHL history have taken place in the seventh and
decisive game. Who can forget when Raymond Bourque finally lifted the cup after
22 seasons in the NHL? Where were you when the New York Rangers ended their
54-year cup-less drought in 1994? Remember when Ron Hextall won the Conn Smythe
trophy for the Flyers, but his team lost Game 7 to the Oilers in 1987 for the
Stanley Cup (or J.S. Giguere in 2003)?
Some Game 7s are remembered by
individual player performances. In 1993, Wayne Gretzky scored a hat-trick to
single-handedly propel the Kings into the Stanley Cup finals, where they would
eventually bow out to the Canadians in five games. Patrick Roy's final five
post-season series went to a Game 7, where he won 3 of them. The first of the
five was a Cup-winner in 2001 over the Devils.
He also stifled the
Sharks in 2002 with a 27 save performance and a 1-0 win. The final of the five
sent Roy into retirement on a very bitter note when Minnesota's Andrew Brunette
cut around the Colorado defense and buried a backhander for the series winner
in overtime, bringing the Wild back from a 3-1 series deficit.
Upsets, like the Colorado-Minnesota series of 2003,
are a rare, yet exciting story of the playoffs. The Sharks shocked the hockey
world in 1994 when Jamie Baker scored late in the third period of Game 7 to
lead eighth-seeded San Jose over the top-seeded Red Wings, 3-2. The next year,
Ray Whitney tallied in the second overtime to knock out the second seed Flames
in another Game 7 overtime loss for Calgary (the Flames lost the final three
games in the 1994 quarterfinals to Vancouver, all in OT).
Gretzky and Roy, can come in all players. In the 2001 Eastern Conference
semifinal, Darius Kasparaitis won the series for the Penguins when a wrister
from the high slot beat Dominic Hasek and the Sabres in the series finale.
Kasparaitis had scored just three goals the entire regular season, and only had
one assist through 13 games in the post-season.
In 1996, the Blues
were riding an overachieving goaltender by the name of Jon Casey. St. Louis
took the Red Wings all the way to the final game of the conference semifinals,
when Steve Yzerman scored on a blistering slapshot from the blueline in the
Montreal-Boston. Calgary-Vancouver. Ottawa-Toronto.
Game 7. For the players, coaches, fans, and cities, it doesn't get more
exciting, and gut-wrenching, than this.
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