Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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 651 best-of-seven NHL playoff series played, 166 (25%) have resulted in a Game 7 with the home team holding a healthy 97-69 (58%) edge. The team that scores first has a 124-42 (75%) edge, including a 5-0 record in 2016. 40 of the 166 (24%) Game 7s have gone to overtime, with the home and road teams each winning 20 times (50%).

Of the 166 Game 7s, 28 times a team trailing their series 3-1 won Game 7 and 4 times a team down 3-0 in their series won Game 7.  The most Game 7s in single playoff season is seven (1994, 2011, 2014). Only three times has a postseason gone without (1970, 1973, 1977).

Over the past 29 postseasons since the 1987 expansion of all series to best-of-seven, a Game 7 has been played in 122 of the 435 series. Put another way, 28% or approximately every 1 in 3.6 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) 2013: 5 (3P, 2Q)
1998: 1 (1Q) 2014: 7 (3P, 3Q, 1S)
1999: 3 (2P, 1S) 2015: 5 (2P, 1Q, 2S)
2000: 3 (1P, 2S) 2016: 5 (2P, 2Q, 1S)
2001: 4 (3Q, F) 2017: 3 (2Q, 1S)

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

Breaking it down by round, the most Game 7s over the past 30 seasons on a percentage basis have occurred in Semifinal (17/60 = 28%) and Quarterfinal (34/120 = 28%), followed by the Stanley Cup Final (8/30 = 27%) and Preliminary (66/240 = 27%) round. Interestingly, 6 of the past 16 Finals and 5 of the past 8 Semifinals have been decided by a seventh game. In sum, the likelihood of a Game 7 in a NHL playoff series since 1987 is 1 in 3.5 for the Semifinal and Quarterfinal with a slight decrease to roughly 1 in 3.65 for the Preliminary round and 1 in 3.75 for the Stanley Cup Final.

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)
Detroit: 25 (14-11) Pittsburgh: 16 (10-6)
Boston: 25 (13-12) New Jersey: 15 (7-8)
Montreal: 23 (14-9) Washington: 15 (4-11)
Toronto: 22 (12-10) Boston: 14 (8-6)
Pittsburgh: 17 (10-7) Detroit: 14 (7-7)
Philadelphia: 16 (9-7) New York*: 11 (9-2)
St. Louis: 16 (8-8) Philadelphia: 11 (6-5)
New York*: 15 (9-6) Toronto: 11 (6-5)
New Jersey: 15 (7-8) Montreal: 10 (7-3)
Washington: 15 (4-11) San Jose: 10 (6-4)
Chicago: 14 (7-7) Vancouver: 10 (6-4)
Calgary: 12 (5-7) Colorado: 10 (4-6)
Los Angeles: 11 (7-4) St. Louis: 10 (4-6)
Edmonton: 10 (6-4) Los Angeles: 8 (6-2)
San Jose: 10 (6-4) Chicago: 8 (5-3)
Vancouver: 10 (6-4) Anaheim: 9 (3-6)
Colorado: 10 (4-6) Edmonton: 8 (5-3)
Anaheim: 9 (3-6) Calgary: 8 (2-6)
Tampa Bay: 7 (5-2) Tampa Bay: 7 (5-2)
Minnesota^: 7 (3-4) Buffalo: 6 (1-5)
New York**: 7 (3-4) Ottawa: 6 (0-6)
Buffalo: 7 (1-6)(5-2) Dallas: 5 (2-3)
Ottawa: 6 (0-6) New York**: 5 (2-3)
Dallas: 5 (2-3) Carolina: 4 (4-0)
Carolina: 4 (4-0) Minnesota^^: 3 (3-0)
Minnesota^^: 3 (3-0) Phoenix: 3 (0-3)
Quebec: 3 (2-1) Florida: 2 (1-1)
Hartford: 3 (0-3) Nashville: 2 (1-1)
Phoenix: 3 (0-3) Hartford: 2 (0-2)
Florida: 2 (1-1) Minnesota^: 2 (0-2)
Nashville: 2 (1-1) Winnipeg~: 2 (0-2)
Winnipeg~: 2 (0-2) Quebec: 1 (0-1)
Oakland: 1 (0-1)

*   New York Rangers
** New York Islanders
^   Minnesota North Stars
^^ Minnesota Wild
~   Winnipeg Jets (1979-1996)

Detroit and Boston have skated in the most Game 7s (25) in NHL history with Detroit and Montreal winning the most (14). Over the past 30 seasons, however, Pittsburgh has played more Game 7s (16) than anyone else and winning the most (10). Carolina and the Minnesota Wild have never lost a Game 7; Ottawa, Hartford, Phoenix, Winnipeg (1979-1996) and Oakland have never won a Game 7; and Winnipeg (formerly Atlanta) and Columbus have never skated in one.

In terms of winning more than one Game 7 in a single postseason, 22 teams have done it twice with only two teams winning three best-of-seven series in a Game 7 in a single playoff (Boston 2011, Los Angeles 2014). 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: Detroit (S, F)*
1964: Toronto (S, F)*
1968: St. Louis (Q, S)
1990: Chicago (P, Q)
1993: Toronto (P, Q)
1994: New York^ (S, F)*
2001: Colorado (Q, F)*
2002: Colorado (P, Q), Toronto (P, Q)
2003: New Jersey (S, F)*, Minnesota (P, Q)
2004: Tampa Bay (S, F)*
2006: Carolina (S, F)*
2009: Carolina (P, Q), PIT (Q, F)*
2010: Montreal (P, Q)
2011: Boston (P, S, F)*
2012: New York^ (P, Q)
2014: Los Angeles (P, Q, S)*
2015: Tampa Bay (P, S)
2016: St. Louis (P, Q)
2017: Pittsburgh (Q, S)*


* Stanley Cup Champion
^ New York Rangers

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

The 2017 postseason featured three Game 7s, with the team that scores first going 3-0, home teams holding a 2-1 record, and none recovering from a 3-1 series deficit.
Game 7 ... kill or be killed.

* See also NHL Playoff Comebacks Trailing 3-0.
* See also NHL Playoff Comebacks Trailing 3-1.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff First Round Upsets.
* See also Canucks Game 7 Overtime & Stanley Cup Finals.

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