Posted by: Mike Cornelius | April 29, 2018

A Double Dose Of Game 7 Delirium

As proof that sometimes less is more, consider all that is conveyed by just three syllables – Game 7. Upon hearing the term even a casual fan understands the high stakes and inherent drama in a single contest to decide a lengthy postseason series. Through the highs and lows and twists and turns of six games, two teams have fought to a draw with three wins apiece. Whether it is on the diamond, the hardcourt, or the ice, whether for the right to move on to the next round or the thrill of claiming a championship, no nine innings or four quarters or three periods can match the tension when both teams face elimination. Fans in some cities can go years without having to endure the stress of a Game 7. In Boston last week, the thousands of faithful who fill the stands at TD Garden in support of the Bruins and Celtics got a pair of them in just seventy-two hours.

On Wednesday evening it was the Bruins, trying to close out the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The good news for Boston was that having finished as the runner-up in the Atlantic Division, a single point behind Tampa Bay, Game 7 against third place Toronto was on home ice. But that advantage could not entirely assuage the concerns of Bruins fans. Their team finished the regular season on a down note, posting a 1-3-1 record in April. Then in the matchup against Toronto, the Bruins had seemingly commanding leads of two games to none and later three games to one but had been unable to send their opponents off to the golf course for the summer.

Four days earlier on the TD Garden ice the visitors jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in Game 5 and the Bruins were unable to overcome the quick deficit, eventually falling 4-3. Then Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen came up huge in Game Six back in Toronto, turning aside thirty-two of the Bruins’ thirty-three shots as the Leafs evened the series at three games each with a 3-1 win. As if Toronto’s apparent momentum wasn’t enough to cause concern, there was the less than stellar Game 7 record of Tuukka Rask, the Boston netminder. Wednesday night was the fourth Game 7 of Rask’s career, and in the three previous contests he was 1-2 with a woeful .849 save percentage.

On the surface Rask did little to improve on those numbers Wednesday night, though he did make some key stops in the third period.  Still, when Toronto led 4-3 at the second intermission, the packed house at TD Garden was restless and worried. But to the extent that part of their concern was based on history, they should have focused on the sole win in Rask’s Game 7 past. That was in 2013, also in the opening round and also against the Maple Leafs. In that contest Toronto led 4-1 with less than fifteen minutes to play before Boston stormed back to tie in regulation and eventually win in overtime.

History repeated itself Wednesday night, without the need for an extra session. Barely a minute into the third period Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller picked up a loose puck after a faceoff in the Toronto end and whipped a pass out to Torey Krug near the blue line. Krug let fly with a one-timer through a partial screen that was past Andersen before he even saw it, and the game was tied. Scarcely more than four minutes later Jake DeBrusk got Toronto’s Jake Gardiner to turn the wrong way at the blue line. That gave DeBrusk a clear lane to Andersen and he flipped the puck through the five hole, giving the Bruins the lead. Then just past the midpoint of the final period Patrice Bergeron controlled a bouncing puck behind the Toronto net and passed quickly out to David Pastrnak, who was all alone in the crease. The forward’s fifth goal of the series put Boston up 6-4, and it was now very, very loud in the big building on Causeway Street. When Brad Marchand flipped a long shot from center ice into an empty net with less than a minute to play, the 7-4 final tally was set in front of a delirious crowd that had long since forgotten its earlier collective anxiety.

Come Saturday evening the ice had been covered over by parquet, and the stands were once again filled to capacity as the Boston Celtics hosted the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of their first-round series in the NBA Playoffs. The home faithful drew strength from the knowledge that this series had yet to see the visiting team post a victory. Still with Boston’s injury-depleted lineup there had to be cause for concern.

But as had been the case with their skating cousins, the Celtics and their fans could find guidance for Saturday’s game by a close look at history. The most successful franchise in NBA history was playing in a league-record thirty-first Game 7, and its twenty-fourth at home. The Celtics record in the previous twenty-three was an imposing 19-4. This young and hungry Celtics roster did nothing to diminish that mark on Saturday.

Boston’s Al Horford scored the game’s first points, but midway through the first quarter Milwaukee led by five at 15-10. From that point to the end of the period the team’s scored another twenty-two points. Twenty of them were netted by the Celtics, who led 30-17 at the break. The second quarter featured scoring runs by both teams. The Bucks opened with eleven straight to cut the lead to two, then Boston responded with nine in a row to again pull away. Milwaukee was hampered by foul trouble, with both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe saddled with three calls by halftime. In a reprise of the first quarter, the Celtics netted eleven of the last fifteen points in the third to expand their lead to 81-67 with one quarter to play. Milwaukee was unable to close to single digits over those final twelve minutes, and just like three days earlier, happy fans poured into the streets of Boston’s north end, looking forward to the next round of the playoffs.

Odds are there won’t be a springtime duck boat parade through the streets of Boston, much less two. While the Bruins opened their second-round series with a 6-2 thrashing of the Lightning in Tampa, Boston also showed its weaknesses by allowing the Maple Leafs to extend the opening series to its limit. As for the Celtics, their injury news only got worse with word that Jaylen Brown, who limped out of Game 7 in the second quarter, is doubtful for the first contest against the Philadelphia 76ers. But both teams are still playing, and even if the Bruins and Celtics go no further, last week each franchise gave its fans the ultimate in postseason joy.


  1. This is a great time for Boston fans to relish “living in the moment”. With any luck they will have a few more memorable ones before the seasons end.

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