Friday, May 13, 2022

Every NHL team’s most emotionally devastating Game 7 loss, ranked

Welcome to a weekend of Game 7s. If your favorite team isn’t playing in one, prepare to be entertained. If they are, well, prepare to get hurt.

Whenever I make a ranking, I know what I’m in for. It’s a fun format to play with, and readers usually enjoy them, but somebody will always get mad. It doesn’t matter how obvious the topic might be; some fan out there will take it personally. I could do a ranking of the NHL’s best players that had Connor McDavid and Cale Makar at the top, and some Columbus fan will show up to yell at me that it’s actually Zach Werenski. And that’s cool – a little bit of hometown bias is part of the deal.

But today… I’m not sure today is going to go well for me. That’s because of this ranking’s topic: Every team’s most painful Game 7 loss, ranked from least to most heart-breaking.

I’m willing to bet that just about every fan who saw that headline immediately thought that their team has to rank high. Maybe you even figure you’re a slam dunk for top spot. After all, it might be true that every fan base has suffered, but surely no fan base has suffered as much as yours. I’m pretty sure that’s a universal trait of every diehard sports fan. We all have the scars, we’re weirdly proud of them, and we’ll show them off if you ask, or even if you don’t. Nobody knows your pain. Of course this sort of list has to build towards your team, who else could even come close?

Sounds like fun, let’s do this.

Here’s how this will work. For every team in the league, I’ve gone through their history and picked what I think was their most agonizing Game 7 loss. (In some cases, I reached out to others for help, but I made the final call so you can blame me if you think I missed a better choice.) We’re considering a team’s entire history, although we’ll try to lean towards the modern era where we can. It goes without saying that I’m only looking at a team’s current location, because nobody in Carolina should feel bad about something that happened in Hartford.

And most importantly, I’m looking for all the different kinds of misery a Game 7 can provide. A close game or a late collapse will hurt, but so can an especially embarrassing blowout. Overtime is a bonus. So are any controversies, bad bounces or memorable mistakes. Context matters too, so we’ll consider the season, the recent history, what came after, and even how likable the team was before it all came crashing down. To borrow a term some of you will recognize, we’re looking for Those Games.

We all have our pain, and this is going to get ugly. There’s no such thing as a pleasant Game 7 loss, but we’ll start at the merely painful and work our way into the depths of utter misery.

Not ranked: Seattle Kraken, Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets

OK, maybe we don’t all have our pain, at least when it comes to the subject at hand. The Hurricanes have never lost a Game 7 since moving to Carolina, going a sickening 5-0 in winner-take-alls. They did drop a few in Hartford, including that legendary night back in 1992, and of course could lose one tomorrow/over the next few weeks. But for now, they’re safe.

The Kraken (obviously) and the Blue Jackets (somewhat surprisingly) are the only other teams in the NHL that have never lost a Game 7, meaning our actual ranking will have 29 teams to work with. Sorry Seattle, and Columbus fans, better worse luck next year.

29. Minnesota Wild: 2021 vs. Vegas

This one isn’t all that painful, coming by a 6-2 final on the road in a series in which they were underdogs. It’s also the only Game 7 loss the Wild have ever had, so here we are. Man, this franchise’s history is so boring that it can’t even do gut-wrenching agony right. Yet.

28. Arizona Coyotes: 2010 vs. Detroit

The Coyotes have three losses to choose from, but we have to go with the most recent. The 2009-10 edition of the club was arguably the first truly good team that fans in Phoenix had seen, finishing with 107 points that stills stands as the franchise record. But they drew the veteran Wings and bowed out in an embarrassing home-ice blowout, giving up 50 shots and losing 6-1.

27. Florida Panthers: 2012 vs. New Jersey

This is one of the only picks that nobody will disagree with, because it’s the only Game 7 loss in Panthers’ history so far. And on the surface, it’s not all that bad. The Panthers weren’t good that year, and their loss to the Devils came in the first round. But they did lose Game 6 and Game 7 in overtime, the latter on home ice, and I have to give a few bonus points just for the immediate cutaway to Dale Tallon and Bill Torrey looking like a devastated Statler and Waldorf.

26. Los Angeles Kings: 1976 vs. Boston

The Kings have been remarkably resistant to Game 7 misery, with just four losses in 55 years, none in the Gretzky or Stanley Cup eras and none past the second round. I’ll go with the 1976 loss to the Bruins, which came in Marcel Dionne’s first year as a King. It was a classic underdog battle, with the Bruins winning Games 1, 4 and 5 by a combined score of 14-1 but the Kings hanging around with three close wins, two of which came in overtime. That included a memorable Game 6 winner by Butch Goring, but the Bruins would slam the door with a 3-0 win in Game 7.

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