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Original Issue

Why Is Game 7 So Rare?

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.

--Brian Cazeneuve

Game 7s 4 7 13
Home Team Won Game 7 3 3 7
Winner Took Final Two Games of Series 2 4 8
Winner Had Better Regular-Season Record 3 4 7