Sunday, May 12, 2013

NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Game 7 History

When two teams split the first six games of a best-of-seven playoff series, a 'winner take all' Game 7 is staged. Heroes are born and victors crowned in this high-stakes affair. Not surprisingly, Game 7s have produced some of the most memorable moments in NHL postseason history.

Once reserved solely for the Semifinal and Final rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the best-of-seven format was expanded to include the Quarterfinals in 1968 and Preliminary round in 1987. Of the 591 best-of-seven NHL playoff series played, 144 (24%) have resulted in a Game 7 with the home team holding a healthy 91-53 (63%) edge.

Of the 144 Game 7s, 24 times a team trailing their series 3-1 won Game 7 and 3 times a team down 3-0 in their series won Game 7.  The most Game 7s in single playoff season is seven (1994, 2011). Only three times has a postseason gone without (1970, 1973, 1977).

Over the past 25 postseasons since the 1987 expansion of all series to best-of-seven, a Game 7 has been played in 100 of the 375 series. Put another way, 26% or approximately every 1 in 3.75 playoff series have gone to seven games. The chart below describes Game 7s by year, noting the number and round in which a seventh game(s) occurred.

Year: Game 7s (Round)              Year: Game 7s (Round) 
1987: 5 (1P, 3Q, F) 2002: 5 (2P, 2Q, 1S)
1988: 3 (1P, 1Q, 1S) 2003: 6 (3P, 1Q, 1S, F)
1989: 3 (2P, 1Q) 2004: 5 (3P, 1S, F)
1990: 4 (3P, 1Q) 2006: 3 (1P, 1S, F)
1991: 4 (3P, 1Q) 2007: 1 (1P)
1992: 6 (6P) 2008: 3 (3P)
1993: 4 (1P, 2Q, 1S) 2009: 6 (2P, 3Q, F)
1994: 7 (4P, 1Q, 1S, F) 2010: 4 (2P, 2Q)
1995: 4 (4P) 2011: 7 (4P, 1Q, 1S, F)
1996: 2 (1Q, 1S) 2012: 4 (3P, 1Q)
1997: 3 (3P)
1998: 1 (1Q)
1999: 3 (2P, 1S)
2000: 3 (1P, 2S)
2001: 4 (3Q, F)

(P = Preliminary, Q = Quarterfinal, S = Semifinal, F = Final)

Breaking it down by round, the most Game 7s over the past 25 seasons on a percentage basis have occurred in the Stanley Cup Final (8/25 = 32%), with 6 of the past 11 Finals being decided by a seventh game. The Preliminary (56/200 = 28%), Semifinal (12/50 = 24%), and Quarterfinal (24/100 = 24%) rounds follow with a decreasing likelihood of a Game 7. In sum, the likelihood of a Game 7 in a NHL playoff series since 1987 is 1 in 3 for the Final and roughly 1 in 4 for all other rounds.

The charts below show the total number of Game 7s played by each NHL team along with their win/loss records, with all-time statistics on the lefthand side and data since 1987 on the righthand side.

NHL Game 7s All-Time              NHL Game 7s Since 1987
Team: Series (Record)       Team: Series (Record)
BOS: 23 (12-11) NJD: 15 (7-8)
DET: 22 (13-9) BOS: 13 (8-5)
MTL: 22 (13-9) PIT: 12 (7-5)
TOR: 21 (12-9) DET: 11 (6-5)
PHI: 15 (9-6) TOR: 11 (6-5)
NJD: 15 (7-8) WAS: 11 (3-8)
STL: 14 (6-8) PHI: 10 (6-4)
PIT: 13 (7-6) VAN: 10 (6-4)
CGY: 12 (5-7) MTL: 9 (6-3)
WAS: 11 (3-8) COL: 9 (4-5)
VAN: 10 (6-4) STL: 8 (2-6)
NYR: 10 (5-5) CGY: 8 (2-6)
CHI: 10 (5-5) EDM: 7 (5-2)
EDM: 9 (6-3) SJS: 7 (5-2)
COL: 9 (4-5) NYR: 6 (5-1)
SJS: 7 (5-2) BUF: 6 (1-5)
MIN: 7 (3-4) North Stars OTT: 5 (0-5)
LAK: 7 (3-4) CAR: 4 (4-0)
NYI: 7 (3-4) CHI: 4 (3-1)
BUF: 7 (1-6) TBL: 4 (3-1)
OTT: 5 (0-5) LAK: 4 (2-2)
CAR: 4 (4-0) NYI: 4 (2-2)
TBL: 4 (3-1) ANA: 4 (2-2)
ANA: 4 (2-2) DAL: 4 (2-2)
DAL: 4 (2-2) PHX: 3 (0-3)
QUE: 3 (2-1) MIN: 2 (2-0) Wild
HFD: 3 (0-3) MIN: 2 (0-2) North Stars
PHO: 3 (0-3) FLA: 2 (1-1)
MIN: 2 (2-0) Wild HFD: 2 (0-2)
FLA: 2 (1-1) WPG: 2 (0-2)
WPG: 2 (0-2) QUE: 1 (0-1)
OAK: 1 (0-1)

Boston has skated in the most Game 7s (23) in NHL history, though Toronto and Detroit have won the most (13). Over the past 25 seasons, however, New Jersey has played more Game 7s (15) than anyone else with Boston winning the most (8). Carolina and the Minnesota Wild have never lost a Game 7; Ottawa, Hartford, Phoenix, Winnipeg (currently Phoenix) and Oakland have never won a Game 7; and Winnipeg (formerly Atlanta), Columbus and Nashville have never skated in a Game 7.

In terms of winning more than one Game 7 in a single postseason, 18 teams have done it twice with only one team winning three best-of-seven series in a Game 7 in a single playoff (Boston 2011). The chart below lists all NHL teams that have ever won two or more Game 7s in a single postseason, indicating year and rounds in which they turned the trick.

NHL Game 7s Won Same Year
Year: Team (Round)
1950: DET (S, F)
1964: TOR (S, F)
1968: STL (Q, S)
1990: CHI (P, Q)
1993: TOR (P, Q)
1994: NYR (S, F)
2001: COL (Q, F)
2002: COL (P, Q), TOR (P, Q)
2003: NJD (S, F), MIN (P, Q)
2004: TBL (S, F)
2006: CAR (S, F)
2009: CAR (P, Q), PIT (Q, F)
2010: MTL (P, Q)
2011: BOS (P, S, F)
2012: NYR (P, Q)


(P = Preliminary, Q = Quarterfinal, S = Semifinal, F = Final)

The Preliminary round of this postseason has three series (ANA/DET, WAS/NYR, BOS/TOR) skating in a final and deciding Game 7.
Taking it to the limit ... or if you prefer ... to the end of the line.

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