Home will be heaven for seven

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 5:07 PM ET


 Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the Blowout on Broad St.

 Be assured it is not a date the Maple Leafs have circled on their calendars.

 On April 22, 2003 the Philadelphia Flyers, juiced by the deafening support of their home crowd, pasted the Leafs 6-1 in the seventh and deciding game of their Eastern Conference quarter-final.

 From the moment they sagged their heads and left the ice that less-than-memorable day last spring, the Leafs have stressed the importance of home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

 Maybe things would have been different had that final game be held at the Air Canada Centre, the Leafs maintain.

 Maybe the task of taking on the Flyers and their rowdy supporters was too much to ask of Pat Quinn's fatigued team.

 Whatever the case, the Leafs one year later find themselves in a more comfortable position.

 This time around it is Toronto that will be home to a first-round Game 7. The Leafs and Ottawa Senators tomorrow night put the exclamation point on what has been a roller-coaster post-season edition of the Battle of Ontario.

 "Everyone saw what happened last year (in Philly) so, as a team, it's always nice to be at home for a Game 7," captain Mats Sundin said. "But it doesn't guarantee anything."

 Whether Sundin's left leg injury heals enough to allow him to be in the lineup tomorrow night remains to be seen.

 But the numbers indicate the home team does have the advantage in seventh games.

 A total of 111 series have gone to seven games since the NHL introduced the best-of-seven format in 1939. The home team has won 70 (63%) and the visiting team 41 (37%).

 Because the Sens forced a seventh game by defeating Toronto last night at the Corel Centre, the Leafs have now gone the distance in five of their past six series. Pat Quinn's team was eliminated by the New Jersey Devils in 2001; defeated both the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators in 2003; and was booted out of the post-season by the Flyers last spring.

 The Leafs franchise is 11-9 in Game 7s.


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