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Why Is Game 7 So Rare?
Brian Cazeneuve
June 18, 2001
The Avalanche-Devils series was only the fourth Stanley Cup final in the postexpansion era (since 1967-68) to last seven games, by far the fewest Game 7s of any major sport over that span. Why does going the distance occur so rarely in hockey? One theory is that as bumps and bruises accrue over the brutally long two-month postseason—pre-expansion, the NHL had only two playoff rounds—teams that fall behind in a series lack the will to rebound. "By the finals, you're beat up and you run on emotion," says Colorado defenseman Rob Blake. "A bad loss takes so much more out of you than in the regular season."
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June 18, 2001

Why Is Game 7 So Rare?

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STANLEY CUP FINALS

NBA FINALS

WORLD SERIES

Game 7s

4

7

13

Home Team Won Game 7

3

4

7

Winner Took Final Two Games of Series

2

4

8

Winner Had Better Regular-Season Record

3

4

7

The Avalanche-Devils series was only the fourth Stanley Cup final in the postexpansion era (since 1967-68) to last seven games, by far the fewest Game 7s of any major sport over that span. Why does going the distance occur so rarely in hockey? One theory is that as bumps and bruises accrue over the brutally long two-month postseason—pre-expansion, the NHL had only two playoff rounds—teams that fall behind in a series lack the will to rebound. "By the finals, you're beat up and you run on emotion," says Colorado defenseman Rob Blake. "A bad loss takes so much more out of you than in the regular season."

In the postexpansion years the league has also had three dynasties: The Montreal Canadiens (1976-79) and the New York Islanders ('80-83) each won four titles in a row, while the Edmonton Oilers won five championships in seven years ('84-90). These clubs were considerably better than the teams they whipped in the finals. "This year was unusual," says John Davidson, the former goaltender who is now a broadcaster. "You had the two best teams in the regular season meeting in the finals." The last time that happened was in '87, when the Oilers beat the Philadelphia Flyers—in seven games.

Here is how major league baseball and the NBA stack up against the NHL since 1967 in Game 7s of a final series.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

1