Game 7s are the ultimate thrill

Bruins forward Shawn Thornton stares down Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa during Game 6 of the...

Bruins forward Shawn Thornton stares down Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final in Boston, Mass., June 13, 2011. (ERIC BOLTE/QMI Agency)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:51 PM ET

TORONTO - There is one game to play, one last chance to make the right kind of history.

Just as it has been since the playoffs began, for the Vancouver Canucks it remains their Stanley Cup to win or lose. This will not be unlike the NBA should the Canucks fail to win Wednesday night: The loser, post championship, will be far more discussed and dissected than the winner will be.

This is 41 years in the making for the Canucks, almost a half century of just about everyone winning but them.

All that can change at the Rogers Arena in Game 7, the game of our childhood dreams. On the driveway, no one boasted about scoring the winner in Game 5. It was always Game 7. The last shot. The last save. The last chance to be great.

For as long as the Boston Bruins have been around, they have never played a Game 7 for the Stanley Cup. That would tell you how rare this game really is, except it hasn’t been that rare in recent times.

This Game 7 is the sixth since the year 2000, the third since the lockout ended a season after two straight Game 7 Stanley Cups.

They are supposed to be once-in-a-lifetime kind of games, and maybe they remain that way in the cities of the champions, but most of the memories over time have faded. This hasn’t been New Year’s Eve and the Montreal Canadiens for sheer drama. And it certainly hasn’t been a night where the stars have come out to play.

What happens so often in Game 7? It isn’t the Sidney Crosbys or Evgeny Malkins who end up starring. When Pittsburgh defeated the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, they won 2-1. Max Talbot scored both of those goals. The same Max Talbot who has scored all of 10 goals the past two seasons.

When the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Calgary Flames — and how strange does that sound in retrospect? — for the Cup, it wasn’t Vinny Lecavalier or Brad Richards or Martin St. Louis who made the difference. Ruslan Fedotenko scored both goals for Tampa in their 2-1 win. The same Fedotenko who has suited up for four different teams the past five seasons.

That recent history may work well for the Jekyl and Hyde Canucks. They have won three games of the Stanley Cup final games at home, and none of the key goals have been scored by players named Sedin, Sedin or Kesler. They’ve had their Max Talbot moments in Games 1, 2, and 5. Whether they have one more Mike Rupp moment in them — he, too, once scored a Stanley Cup winning goal — will be determined by night time.

Just because it’s the ultimate game, it hasn’t always produced ultimate moments. In fact you may have to go back 17 years for a truly memorable, take your breath away, Game 7. That also involved the Canucks, but that year they were the other team. The New York Rangers were the story, with the longest drought in NHL history. The one-goal game went right down to the final minute, the final chance even, with the emotion being felt right across the league and into the streets of the largest city in North America.

That was a Game 7 for the ages, exceeding the 1971 Montreal win over Chicago in the season in which Ken Dryden won the Conn Smythe Trophy before winning the rookie of the year award a season later.

This is the ninth Game 7 I will have seen — the 11th of my lifetime. There were five games played before I was born, including the last Game 7 to go into overtime, way back in 1954.

Tony Leswick scored the winning goal, a typically strange overtime ending. He shot a puck that deflected off the great Doug Harvey’s glove and past Gerry McNeil in the Montreal net. McNeil was so frustrated and angered by the score he quit playing for a year to clear his head, leading the way for his backup, Jacques Plante, to take over. Among those on that Detroit Cup team: Gordie Howe, Terry Sawchuk, Red Kelly, Ted Lindsay, Al Arbour and Ron Wilson’s uncle, Johnny.

Maybe this Game 7 will be just like it — with an unpredictable ending in overtime. Maybe, but considering the history, don’t bet on it.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/simmonssteve


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