BY Jeff Schneberk
For those of you who actually care to look, if you Google ‘nhl game 7 collapses’, nine of the first 10 web pages/hits that will come up on your computer screen recall the worst night of our lives on May whatever when most of you witnessed one of the worst collapses in the history of the National Hockey League. I’ve tried tirelessly to find some sort of proof what just what was the worst collapse, but nothing definitive came up so I am going on my own with this one.
Upon trying to look up some of the records of NHL Game 7s (any category), I stumbled upon nine different web sites that look at what happened that horrible evening at the TD Garden in Boston. Although there is no official word (that I can find) on some of the most reliable sports information sites out there (TSN, Sportsnet and even the CBC), nobody that I can find has in turn been able to find some part of that hockey game that night that makes the League record books (albeit for all the wrong reasons)
There have been collapses before in NHL play where one team build up an good-sized lead, then blows it late. But this can’t just be any old lead in any old game. This has to basically be an elimination game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, preferably a Game 7.
In 2010 Boston had the Flyers down 3-0 and that series wound up going the distance and the Flyers ended up winning. These are the kinds of games that will leave everyone, including the winning teams, a little shocked they actually won. That may still stand as the biggest collapse in a Game 7 in Stanley Cup action.
In the Philly Boston series Boston was wiped out by injuries and Philly had the better team to begin with. When I look at those lineups I wonder how it is possible that Boston got in the position they were in. In the Toronto series, you have a bunch of young players who obviously have plenty of skill and talent, yet most fall (extremely) short when it comes to experience.
Someone like Jake Gardiner had zero NHL experience, although he didn’t play like it. Mikhail Grabovski also had zero experience, but he performed to a completely new level too. Whereas guys like Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic have been in that exact position, in fact they’ve both participated in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. However Toronto took this Bruins teams as far as you could possibly go without winning.
I read in a column posted by a journalist based out of Yorkton, Saskatchewan that this Toronto team simply isn’t ready to win yet. That seems to be the only explanation which carries more logic to it than most of us would care to believe. How can any pro team not be ready to win? I have no idea but if there ever was a team who was mentally not ready to dethrone someone, it may as well be the Leafs. Like it was their ‘Welcome Back to the NHL Playoffs For the First Time in Nearly 10 Years’ moment. Something really humiliating happens that nobody in the wildest dreams could have ever forseen.
Boston had never really played during this shortened season the way they are capable of playing, and it seemed that even watching the 3 periods of regulation that night that even though my team was well ahead, that something just did not seem right. When you are sweating bullets when your team is winning, that’s a pretty good sign you know something horrible is going to happen (before the game’s done).
For more on the happenings in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, follow me on Twitter @Game7overtime.
People were definitely in shock over it but I think the fact that the Game 7 between the Devils and Hurricanes was always close (either team only having a 1 goal lead) rather than a team having a commanding 3-goal lead, contributes to the reason why it isn’t viewed as quite as monumental as the Leafs or Bruins collapses.
This wasn’t one of the options but what about when New Jersey blew a lead against Carolina in Game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Quater-Finals. The Devils were leading that game 3-2 with 1:20 left in the 3rd period, then Eric Staal tied it and he then scored again with under 30 seconds left. So at least tonight the Leafs had a chance to win in overtime and the Devils did not.