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A date with history in Game 7

It's when Bill Russell started a dynasty, Brad Park became a local hero and Aaron Boone gave himself a new middle name.

Boston's rich sports history is littered with Game 7 drama, moments that created heroes just as often as they broke hearts.

Wednesday, the Boston Bruins will add another chapter. Just one game -- and the Vancouver Canucks -- stand in the way of their first Stanley Cup title since 1972.

This will be 59th time that the Red Sox, Celtics or Bruins have gone the distance in a best-of-seven series. They've combined to go 35-23 in the previous instances.

No surprise, but of the three, the Boston Celtics have had by far the most success in Game 7s. That started in 1957 with a pair of rookies leading the charge in a double-overtime win over St. Louis. Bill Russell scored 19 points and added 32 rebounds, while Tom Heinsohn poured in 37, the most in an NBA Finals Game 7.

That began a string of incredible Game 7 success for the Celtics. Russell finished his career a perfect 10-0 in Game 7s, including the decisive game in five of his 11 titles. In fact, before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 last year, the Celtics were 7-0 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

Although the Celtics built a dynasty through success in Game 7, the Red Sox have experienced the other side. In the 85 seasons between the 1918 and 2004 titles, the Red Sox made four World Series appearances (1946, 1967, 1975, 1986). All four ended with a Game 7 loss. Then there was the infamous Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS in which Boone's extra-inning home run shattered dreams. Of course, in the next year's ALCS, Game 7 punctuated the greatest comeback in postseason history.

For the Bruins, who are 11-10 in Game 7s, this will be their first in the Stanley Cup finals. But they've still experienced the highs and lows of these decisive games.

There was the heartbreak of 1979, when the Bruins were minutes from defeating Montreal and advancing to the finals. That's when a "too many men on the ice" penalty led to Guy Lafleur's tying goal and ultimately an overtime loss.

Four years later, the Bruins found themselves in another Game 7 overtime, this time against the Buffalo Sabres in the division finals. That's when defenseman Brad Park fired a slap shot that found its way through four Sabres and into the back of the net. An unlikely hero, Park, 35, scored only 10 regular-season goals in what would be his last season in Boston.

A long road from home in Game 7

For the 16th time in Stanley Cup finals history, there will be a Game 7. But history isn't on the Bruins' side when they play on the road.


Home teams are 12-3 all time in the previous 15 games, but it's worth noting that the road team won the last Game 7 (Pittsburgh over Detroit in 2009).

This isn't a phenomenon reserved to hockey. In the NBA Finals, home teams are 14-3 in Game 7, including the Los Angeles Lakers' victory over the Boston Celtics a year ago.

Of the past 20 championship Game 7s in the NHL, NBA and MLB, 19 were won by the home team. The lone exception again was the 2009 Penguins. Before that, you have to go back to 1979. That's when yet another team donning black and gold pulled it off. The Pittsburgh Pirates won Game 7 in Baltimore on the back of Willie Stargell (who went 4-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs).

If the Bruins want to be the exception, they've picked the wrong country. NHL teams in Canada are a perfect 4-0 at home in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Bruins in Game 7

This is the first time the Bruins are appearing in Game 7 of a Stanley Cup finals, but they have plenty of experience in other Game 7s.

This will be the 22nd Game 7 in franchise history. At 11-10, the Bruins hold a slight edge over their opponents, but there's one thing they haven't done: won a Game 7 on the road.

Boston is 0-4 all time in road Game 7s, most recently losing in Montreal in the 2008 quarterfinals.

Win or lose, the Bruins will make history on Wednesday.

In each of the previous three seasons, the Bruins have been eliminated in a Game 7. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, they'd be the first team in history of the NHL, NBA or MLB to lose a Game 7 in four straight years.

But if the Bruins win, they will be the first NHL team to win three Game 7s in one postseason. The 2002 Avalanche and 1992 Maple Leafs are the only others to even play three in one year, but neither took home the Cup.

Facts to know if the Canucks win

Given that the Bruins hold a 19-8 scoring edge, it's safe to say the Canucks will be outscored in the series regardless of Wednesday's outcome. So if Vancouver does win Game 7, it will almost certainly make history.

Only four teams have won the Stanley Cup despite being outscored in the series. But in each case, the margin was small. In 1918, the Toronto Arenas won the Cup despite being outscored by three goals in a series with the Vancouver Millionaires. That margin was equaled by the 2009 Penguins, but no team has won the Cup when being outscored by more goals.

All three of the Canucks' wins in this series have been by one goal, contributing to the large differential. According to Elias, since the Stanley Cup finals went to a best-of-seven format in 1939, only two teams have won four games by one goal: the 1951 Maple Leafs and 1968 Canadiens.

With no Canucks player differentiating himself from the pack, that leads to another question. Might the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP wind up with Tim Thomas either way? It wouldn't be unprecedented for the winner to come from the runner-up. It's happened five previous times, most recently with Jean-Sebastien Giguere in 2003. Four of those five trophy winners have been goalies.

The Hub of winning?

Just 14,279 days since the Bruins last hoisted the Stanley Cup, they have a chance to do it again on Wednesday. In doing so, they'd complete the cycle of Boston teams ending title droughts.

After the Celtics won it all in 1986, Boston sports fans had to wait 15 years until their next title. When the New England Patriots broke through in 2001, it was the first title in the 41 years of the franchise's history. Two more Super Bowl titles followed in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

In 2004, the Red Sox put a stop to 85 years without a title. Three years later, the Celtics snapped a comparatively short 21-season drought.

When you incorporate Foxborough, the past decade has brought uncommon success for Boston-based teams. However, the Bruins have remained the exception.

On Wednesday, the Bruins go for their first title in 39 years. A win would also be unprecedented for the city's fan base. It would mean that all four major pro sports titles will belong to Boston teams in the span of eight years. No city has ever accomplished that.

Jeremy Lundblad is a senior researcher with ESPN Stats & Information. He provides statistical analysis for ESPNBoston.com.