Since the NHL adopted the seven-game playoff format during the 1939 Stanley Cup Final, there have been 193 winner-take-all contests. Even though the league used to employ five-game series in the early rounds, they made the permanent switch in 1987, with all four series employing a seven-game format.
Thus far in the 2022-23 playoffs, there have already been three Game 7’s, with the visiting team earning a 2-1 record. Unfortunately, the President Trophy winner, the Boston Bruins, lost to the Florida Panthers at TD Garden. Additionally, the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche, lost on home ice to the Seattle Kraken, who were making their playoff debut. Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils blanked the New York Rangers in the Battle of the Hudson to be the only team to win at home.
In the second round, the Kraken secured another Game 7 appearance and will battle the Dallas Stars again with the chance to be in the Western Conference Final. Historically, the home team has won 59% of Game 7’s, which means the Stars have the numbers on their side. However, the Kraken has proven that they are not easy to eliminate.
As these teams prepare for one of the year’s biggest games, we dug through the statistics to figure out which franchises have had the best and worst luck in Game 7 situations.
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Ottawa Senators – 6 Games (0-6)
The Ottawa Senators were reborn in 1992, reviving the name of a franchise that folded in 1934. After failing to make the playoffs for their first four seasons, the Senators qualified in 1996-97, playing their first Game 7 against the Buffalo Sabres in the first round.
Unfortunately, they have played in an additional five Game 7s without winning a single one, losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs (2002, 2004), New Jersey Devils (2003), Rangers (2012), and Pittsburgh Penguins (2017).
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Arizona Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets – 5 Games (0-5)
Once upon a time, the Coyotes were the Winnipeg Jets before relocating to Arizona in 1997. Furthermore, the club only played in two Game 7s while north of the border. After joining the league in 1980, they played in their first Game 7 in 1990, losing to the Edmonton Oilers, following it up with a loss to the Vancouver Canucks in 1992.
Interestingly, in their first season in the desert, they lost to the Anaheim Ducks before dropping another one to the St. Louis Blues in 1999. Over a decade later, in 2010, they lost to the Detroit Red Wings to remain winless in five Game 7 contests.
Oakland Seals – 1 Game (0-1)
The Oakland Seals were a franchise that lasted just a decade in the NHL, established in 1968. After becoming the California Golden Seals in 1970, they eventually relocated to Cleveland in 1976, becoming the Barons, before folding in 1978.
Historically, the franchise only qualified for the playoffs twice, in 1969 and 1970, losing their only Game 7 appearance (5-3) to the Los Angeles Kings. As of 2023, they remain only one of three franchises never to win a Game 7.
Buffalo Sabres – 7 Games (1-6)
The Buffalo Sabres came into the league in 1970 and remain one of the few franchises never to win the Stanley Cup, losing both attempts in the Final in 1975 and 1999. Despite holding the league’s longest playoff drought, 12 years and counting, they are also one of the worse teams to play in a Game 7.
Interestingly, they lost their first two winner-take-all contests to the Bruins in 1983 and 1992 before losing to the Devils in 1994. Finally, Buffalo broke through in 1997 to secure their only Game 7 victory (over the Senators) before losing their next three against the Penguins (2001), Carolina Hurricanes (2006), and Philadelphia Flyers (2011).
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Nashville Predators – 3 Games (1-2)
The Nashville Predators became an expansion team in 1998, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in 2003. Even though they have been one of the more successful teams in the Western Conference since 2005, they have only played in three Game 7’s, producing a 1-2 record.
During the 2016 postseason, they beat the Ducks in the first round (on the road) before falling to the San Jose Sharks at home in the second round. Then, in 2018, they lost to the Winnipeg Jets (II) on home ice, leaving them as one of five teams with a losing record in Game 7 situations.
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Pittsburgh Penguins – 18 Games (10-8)
The Penguins are one of the original expansion teams from 1967 and have employed some of the game’s greatest players like Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and Sidney Crosby. Even though they just snapped their 16-year playoff streak, the five-time Stanley Cup champions are among six teams to win ten or more Game 7 contests.
Historically, the Penguins lost their first Game 7 by allowing the New York Islanders to rally from a 3-0 series deficit and win four straight in 1975. Eventually, 14 years later, they played another winner-take-all, losing to the Flyers in 1989. Finally, in 1991, they won their first Game 7 against the Devils before winning the 2009 Stanley Cup in Game 7 over the Red Wings.
Other wins include the Washington Capitals (1992, 1995, 2009, 2017), Devils (1999), Sabres (2001), Tampa Bay Lightning (2017), and Senators (2017), with additional losses to the Islanders (1993), Panthers (1996), Montreal Canadiens (2010), Lightning (2011), and Rangers (2014, 2022).
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St. Louis Blues – 18 Games (10-8)
The St. Louis Blues joined the NHL in 1967 and became the last team from the original expansion to capture the Stanley Cup, winning in Game 7 in 2019. Despite losing in three straight Final appearances in 1968, 1969, and 1970, they never made it back to the championship series, despite a winning record in Game 7.
Historically, the Blues didn’t wait long to play in a Game 7, going 2-0 during their initial season en route to the Final, edging the Flyers in the first round and the Minnesota North Stars (now Dallas Stars) in semifinals. Interestingly, they built a rivalry with Minnesota, beating them again in 1972 before finally losing a Game 7 to their rivals in 1984.
Other wins include Maple Leafs (1986), Red Wings (1991), Coyotes (1999), Chicago Blackhawks (2016), Stars (2016, 2019), and Bruins (2019), with defeats against the Calgary Flames (1986), Blackhawks (1990), Maple Leafs (1993), Canucks (1995, 2003), Red Wings (1996), and Sharks (2000).
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New York Rangers – 18 Games (11-7)
As one of the Original Six teams in the NHL, the Rangers once held the record for the longest Stanley Cup drought, last winning in 1940 before capturing the championship again in 1994 in one of the greatest Game 7 contests of all time. Despite only four titles in its 96-year history, the franchise has a winning record when playing in Game 7.
Historically, the Rangers lost their first Game 7, in 1939, to the Bruins, the year the NHL implemented the seven-game series format. As mentioned, they’ve had horrible luck in the playoffs, losing their first four Game 7 appearances to the Red Wings (1950), Blackhawks (1971), and Flyers (1975). Eventually, they beat the Devils in 1992 for their first victory.
Other wins include Devils (1994), Canucks (1994), Capitals (2012, 2013, 2015), Senators (2012), Flyers (2014), Penguins (2014, 2022), and Hurricanes (2022), with losses to the Capitals (2009), Lightning (2015), and Devils (2023).
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Detroit Red Wings – 25 Games (14-11)
The Red Wings were the first team in North American sports history to blow a 3-0 series lead, losing Game 7 to the Maple Leafs in the 1942 Stanley Cup Final. However, they followed that historic loss by going 7-3 in their next ten Game 7 contests to be one of the most intimidating teams to face in a winner take all game.
After that stretch ended in 1965, the Red Wings didn’t play another Game 7 until 1987. Interestingly, they are 3-4 in Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final, which includes three losses to the Maple Leafs in 1942, 1945, and 1964 and a single loss to the Penguins in 2009.
Outside of the years already mentioned, their record includes wins over Bruins (1945), Canadiens (1949, 1954, 1955), Maple Leafs (1950, 1987), Rangers (1950), Blackhawks (1964), North Stars (1992), Blues (1996), Avalanche (2002), Ducks (2009, 2013), and Coyotes (2010), with losses against Blackhawks (1965, 2013), Blues (1991), Maple Leafs (1993), Sharks (1994, 2011), and Lightning (2015).
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Boston Bruins – 30 Games (15-15)
The Bruins are among the most iconic Original Six teams, winners of six Stanley Cup championships, and owners of the all-time best regular-season record, 135 points, achieved in 2022-23. Despite employing some of the game’s greatest players like Ray Bourque, Phil Esposito, and Bobby Orr, the team consistently found themselves in a Game 7 situation, playing in a record 30 contests.
After losing to the Panthers in the first round of the 2023 playoffs, the Bruins now have a 15-15 record in winner-take-all games. Interestingly, they played in the first-ever Game 7s, beating the Rangers in 1939 and then Maple Leafs in 1941. Furthermore, they played three of the first four Game 7s, eventually losing to the Red Wings in 1945.
Altogether, their historical performances after those five games include wins over the Kings (1976), Sabres (1983, 1992), Devils (1988), Hartford Whalers (1990), Canadiens (1991, 1994, 2011), Lightning (2011), Canucks (2011), and Maple Leafs (2013, 2018, 2019), with losses to the Canadiens (1952, 1971, 1979, 2004, 2008, 2014), Maple Leafs (1959), Quebec Nordiques (1982), Hurricanes (2009, 2022), Flyers (2010), Capitals (2012), and Blues (2019).
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Montreal Canadiens – 24 Games (15-9)
The most decorated team in NHL history, with 24 Stanley Cup banners hanging at the Bell Centre, is tied for the most wins in Game 7 history. Statistically, they are the best team in the category based on the highest win percentage of clubs with at least ten or more wins.
Despite all their successes, the Canadiens have only won the Stanley Cup in a Game 7 on one occasion, back in 1965. Interestingly, they were previously 0-2 in the Final with back-to-back losses in 1954 and 1955. Furthermore, as the last Canadian-based team to win a championship, they have only played in eight Game 7s since 1993.
Overall, their win and loss record breaks down with victories over the Bruins (1952, 1971, 1979, 2004, 2008, 2014), Blackhawks (1953, 1965, 1971), Maple Leafs (2021), Whalers (1986, 1992), Nordiques (1987), Capitals (2010), Penguins (2010), with defeats against Red Wings (1949, 1954, 1955), Maple Leafs (1964), North Stars (1980), Nordiques (1985), and Bruins (1991, 1994, 2011).
Realistically, the Maple Leafs did not make this list since they have the 21st-best win percentage at .462% in 26 games. However, they own a 12-14 record, good enough for the fourth most wins, but are the only franchise with ten or more wins and a losing record.
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