There's Nothing Better Than a Game Seven

There's Nothing Better Than a Game Seven

I clearly remember a Phillies game from September 23, 2005 when David Bell hit a go ahead two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning against the Reds in Cincinnati. They entered the inning trailing 10-6 and scored five in the ninth and hung on to win it 11-10.

What does a regular season baseball game from almost five years ago have to do with tonight's Flyers/Sabres Game Seven?

Well, when the ball Bell hit cleared the fence, I jumped out of my seat and started deliriously screaming to my future wife "THIS IS WHY I WATCH SPORTS! THIS IS WHY I WATCH SPORTS!" I couldn't contain myself. The payoff that moment provided made my investment in watching and caring about the team worthwhile. It was one of those rare instances where a game literally moved me.

Which then brings us to tonight. Game Seven.

It's cliche, but there is nothing like a playoff hockey Game 7. The animosity and hatred you develop for an opposing hockey team over a long series is unparalleled. I mentioned something similar in my ode to Sami Kapanen, but it never gets old.

I can't take Nathan Gerbe and his annoying tiny presence. I've had enough of Tyler Myers cross-checking guys after the whistle. I am done thinking of Toronto Raptor Andrea Bargnani every single time an announcer says Marc-Andre Gragnani.

Patrick Kaleta? Done with him. Rob Niedermayer inexplicably scoring goals? Done with it. Lindy Ruff's black tie on black shirt combo? Come on, man.

And you know what? I wouldn't trade that hate for anything. It's the best. It's the reason I tracked down my air card and convinced my wife to drive to dinner on Sunday so I could watch the NBC stream of the game on my laptop. In a moving car.

Every single thing is magnified in a Game 7. Every turnover, every failed clearing attempt, every questionable icing call, every faceoff, every line change. It all matters.

The Flyers have been playing hockey since 1967. They've played just 14 Game 7's. They're 8-6 in those games. Their two most recent Game 7's have been unforgettable. In the event you aren't already completely fired up for tonight here's some video to get your blood pumping.

First, here's Joffrey Lupul's Game 7 OT winner from the 2007-08 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Capitals. 

Take a look back at The700Level reactions to that one

Next, as if you needed any reminder, here's a recap of last season's Flyers/Bruins Game 7.

 

I am fortunate enough to have a ticket to the game, and will be experiencing my first Game 7 in person. Regardless of where you're watching the game tonight, take a second and appreciate that nervous, anxious, pit-in-the-bottom-of-your-stomach feeling.

It's Game Seven.

Photo Credit: Ed Hille/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT

Instant Replay: Reds 5, Phillies 2

Instant Replay: Reds 5, Phillies 2

BOX SCORE

Aaron Nola struggled and the Phillies' offense slumbered in a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies had just one hit through eight innings and three overall in losing for the 21st time in the last 26 games. They scored both of their runs in the ninth inning.

Over their last six games, five of which have been losses, the Phillies have been held to three hits four times.

The Phillies have scored just nine runs in their last six games.

Nola came off the disabled list and pitched seven innings of one-run ball Sunday in Pittsburgh. He failed to build on that outing against a Cincinnati club that entered the game with nine losses in its previous 12 games.

Starting pitching report
Nola, who entered the game having given up just one home run in 23 innings this season, gave up a pair of long balls in the first two innings as the Reds jumped out to a 3-0 lead. In all, the right-hander gave up six hits and five runs over six innings.

Nola is 2-2 with a 4.34 ERA in five starts.

Cincinnati right-hander Tim Adleman's 20th big-league start was the best of his career. The right-hander pitched eight shutout innings and allowed just four baserunners on one hit, two walks and a hit batsman. He struck out four.

Adleman entered the game with a 6.19 ERA this season.

Bullpen report
Mark Leiter Jr. pitched two scoreless innings and struck out three for the Phillies.

Asher Wojciechowski lost the shutout in the ninth. Raisel Iglesias came on for the final two outs. He struck out Maikel Franco, the potential tying run, hacking wildly at a full-count breaking ball to end the game.

At the plate
Andres Blanco, the Phillies' No. 2 hitter, singled in the first inning. The Phillies did not have another hit until there was one out in the ninth.

Aaron Altherr doubled in the ninth to break up the Reds' shutout bid.

Odubel Herrera batted leadoff and ran his slump to 0 for 13 before doubling in the ninth. He hit a ball hard earlier in the game, too, but Cincinnati leftfielder Adam Duvall made a nice diving catch.

For Cincinnati, Duvall and Scott Schebler took Nola deep. Jose Peraza had a two-run single against Nola in the sixth inning. He has a 12-game hitting streak.

In the field
Cincinnati catcher Devin Mesoraco made a terrific play in starting a 2-4-3 double play to end the seventh inning.

Minor matters
Second base prospect Jesmuel Valentin had season-ending surgery on his left shoulder in Philadelphia on Friday. Valentin, who was playing at Triple A Lehigh Valley, is looking at a recovery time of four to five months. He should be ready to play winter ball in his native Puerto Rico. Valentin went down to the final days of camp in a bid to make the Phillies' opening day roster in spring training (see story).

Up next
The series continues in a 4:05 p.m. start Saturday. Jerad Eickhoff (0-5, 4.70) pitches against Bronson Arroyo (3-4, 6.75).

NHL Notes: Predators' P.K. Subban rides whirlwind to Stanley Cup Final

NHL Notes: Predators' P.K. Subban rides whirlwind to Stanley Cup Final

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It has been an extraordinary 11 months for P.K. Subban.

The defenseman moved from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference. Left his native Canada to live in the American South. Blended in with new teammates, created a new home and learned a new system of money, too.

Oh, and along the way the former star for the Montreal Canadiens played a key role in Nashville's stirring run to the Stanley Cup Final.

The best way to sum up Subban's approach? C'est la vie.

"I just tried to have the right attitude when change comes my way," Subban said. "I think when you have an open mind, an open mind is like a gold mine. You just have an open mind, you can only go up from there regardless of what comes your way and just always try to approach things in a positive way."

The Canadiens and Predators shocked the NHL last June 29 when Nashville swapped captain Shea Weber for Subban in a rare one-for-one trade of All-Star defensemen. Adding Subban's offensive skills immediately made the Predators a popular pick to be right where they are now as the Western Conference champions.

The stylish Subban has as much flair on the ice with his goal celebrations as off with his hats and stylish suits. The Predators and their fans have embraced all of it.

"When it happened, I came in here with the right attitude and just wanted to be a part of this team and do whatever I can do to help a team win," Subban said (see full story).

Penguins: Team rides maturity, resilience back to Cup Final
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz stood shoulder to shoulder at center ice as midnight approached, crowd on its feet, Prince of Wales Trophy in hand. Another shot at the Stanley Cup in the offing.

On the surface, it could have been a scene ripped from 2008 when the longtime Pittsburgh Penguin teammates earned their first crack at a championship together, the one that was supposed to be the launching pad for a dynasty.

A closer look at the weary, grateful smiles told a different story.

This team has learned over the last decade that nothing can be taken for granted. Not their individual greatness or postseason success, even for one of the NHL's marquee franchises. Not the cohesion it takes to survive the crucible of the most draining championship chase in professional team sports or the mental toughness (along with a dash of luck) needed to stay on top once you get there.

So Crosby paused in the giddy aftermath of Pittsburgh's 3-2 victory over Ottawa in Game 7 of the helter-skelter Eastern Conference finals to do something the two-time Hart Trophy winner almost never does. He took stock of the moment, aware of how fleeting they can be.

"Every series you look at, the margin for error is so slim," Crosby said. "We've just continued to find ways and different guys have stepped up. We trust in that and we believe in that and whoever has come in the lineup has done a great job. That builds confidence. We've done it different ways, which is probably our biggest strength" (see full story).