When the Stanley Cup Finals roll around, there are many fans that utter this phrase in one form or another: "I hope this series goes the full seven games." And while it's unlikely that the NJ Devils will be able to extend the LA Kings to seven games in the 2012 Cup Finals, there's still a chance, and that chance is what we live for as hockey fans.
There are few thrills greater than watching an NHL playoff Game 7, knowing that everything is on the line for both teams. That emotion ratchets up even higher when the Game 7 in question is to decide who walks away with Lord Stanley's Cup.
Surprisingly, we have seen only 15 Stanley Cup Finals series reach seven games. What follows are the five best of those 15 games.
The 2008 Stanley Cup Finals saw the Detroit Red Wings defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. In a rare occurrence, the teams would meet again in the 2009 Cup Finals.
The Wings jumped to an early lead by taking the first two games, with the Penguins coming back to take the next two. The Red Wings took Game 5 by a score of 5-0 and looked like they had the momentum heading into Game 6. However, the Penguins would not be denied, taking that game 2-1.
And so it was back to Joe Louis Arena for Game 7. The first period ended in a scoreless tie. Max Talbot of the Penguins would break that tie early in the second stanza.
Things took a turn for the worse for the Penguins when captain Sidney Crosby was forced from the game at approximately the 5:30 mark of the second period after taking a hit from the Wings' Johan Franzen. Despite the injury to Crosby, Pens fans breathed a little easier when Talbot scored again midway through the second to make it 2-0.
The Red Wings would make it 2-1 in the second but could crawl no closer, and the Penguins would lift the 2009 Cup in front of the Detroit faithful.
This 1950 Stanley Cup Finals series was remarkable for a few reasons, the first being that the NY Rangers had to play all of their "home" games on the road, as the circus had occupied Madison Square Garden. The second reason was that the famed "Production Line" of the Detroit Red Wings was without Gordie Howe, who was forced to sit after sustaining a serious head injury earlier in the playoffs.
The series would see the teams play three overtime games including Game 7, which went to double overtime. The game-winner came off the stick of the Red Wings' Pete Babando at 8:31 of double overtime.
If we are to believe the legend of the Cup, this series also marks the first time a player, in this case Ted Lindsay, lifted the Cup overhead and skated it around the rink.
The 1987 Stanley Cup Finals pitted the juggernaut that was the Edmonton Oilers against the underdog Philadelphia Flyers.
The Oilers did what was expected of them in Games 1 and 2, namely win, but the games were not blowouts as the Oilers won 4-2 and 3-2 (OT). The Flyers would win Game 3 but would fall in Game 4, putting them in a three-games-to-one hole.
The Oilers would jump to an early 2-0 lead in Game 5, but they could not hold onto that lead and dropped the game 4-3, which sent the series back to Philadelphia where the Flyers took Game 6 by the score of 3-2.
The teams then headed back to Edmonton for the final game, and although the Flyers would gain the early lead, the experience and energy of the Oilers proved to be too great for the Flyers to overcome. The Oilers would win the game 3-1 and lift the Cup in front of their home crowd.
In a rare tip of the cap, the losing goaltender, Ron Hextall, would be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs. He would also receive kind words from Wayne Gretzky, who called him "probably the best goaltender I've ever seen in the National Hockey League."
In 1994, the Mark Messier-led NY Rangers silenced the chants of 1940 that the opposition's fans so enjoyed taunting them with.
The 1940 season marked the last time the Rangers had won the Cup, and in 1994 Messier put the Rangers on his back, seemingly willing the Rangers to victory. A prime example of that was when he guaranteed a victory in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the NJ Devils and delivered on that promise, scoring a hat trick to force Game 7.
Game 7 took extra time, but the Rangers pulled through and earned the berth in the Cup Finals where they would meet the Vancouver Canucks.
The Canucks won Game 1, but the Rangers took the next three. However, showing that they would not bend to the Rangers' will, the Canucks won Games 5 and 6.
Game 7 took place at New York's Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers would win by the score of 3-2. The game-winner was provided by, you guessed it, Mark Messier.
Every NHL team that finds itself in a 3-0 hole points toward the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs as a reason to hold out hope. The Leafs of that season had fallen behind the Detroit Red Wings three games to none in the Cup Finals. They looked like they were on their way out until they defeated the Wings by the score of 4-3 in Game 4.
They would then trounce the Wings in Game 5 (9-3), shut them out in Game 6 (3-0) and force a Game 7 in Toronto. As the third period began, the Wings held a 1-0 lead, but the Leafs would not be denied, scoring three times in the final stanza to take the 1942 Stanley Cup in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.