BOSTON -- For only the second time in their history, the Boston Bruins will play a Game 7 in a Stanley Cup Playoff series they led 3-0 when they host the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS, CSN-PH).
The Bruins hope history repeats itself. In 1939, the year the NHL introduced the best-of-seven playoff format, the Bruins defeated the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Semifinal when Mel "Sudden Death" Hill scored the series winner at 8:00 of the third overtime in Game 7 to give the Bruins a 2-1 victory. It was Hill's third overtime winner of the series, which featured four overtime games.
Hockey Hall of Famer Milt Schmidt, 92, was in his third NHL season and playing on the Bruins' famed Kraut Line, with left wing Woody Dumart and right wing Bobby Bauer. Hill was the right wing on a line centered by Bill Cowley, with Roy Conacher at left wing. Cowley and Conacher were rookies.
Art Ross coached a Bruins team that included defensemen Eddie Shore and Dit Clapper, while captain Cooney Weiland centered left wing Ray Getliffe and a variety of right wings. Jack Crawford partnered with Shore on defense, while Clapper played with Jack Portland or Flash Hollett.
"It was a great series between two great clubs," Schmidt said. "We didn't want to be on a club that won the first three and then lost the next four. That was on our minds. Finally, we won but by the skin of our teeth. There's a reason why a team is in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and that's because they're a great club, then and now."
Hill also scored a triple-overtime winner in Game 1 to give Boston a 2-1 win and an overtime goal in Game 2, leading the Bruins to a 3-2 victory and 2-0 series lead. The Bruins won Game 3 in regulation and then dropped the next three games to the Rangers.
This series already has seen two overtime games, a 5-4 victory at home for the Bruins in Game 1 and the Flyers in Game 4.
Schmidt said he knows how nervous the Flyers and Bruins are going into Game 7.
"We didn't get much sleep because we'd be talking about the game from early morning on," Schmidt said. "We were on pins and needles continually until the game started and you got knocked on your backside. Then you were in the game.
"Even the higher-ups of the club, the great players, they didn't take things normally. Each game, after winning the three games, they kept reminding us that the fourth game is the hardest to win. They were absolutely right. The Rangers had a great club and they reminded us how great they were.
"We wanted to win and so did they. We had the puck bouncing for us in the first three games and then it turned completely around. I thought we played equally as well, but they played a little bit better."
The similarities between the two series don't end there. In 1939 as well as 2010, the Bruins are winning with a rookie goalie -- Frankie "Mr. Zero" Brimsek then, and Tuukka Rask now. Brimsek had shutouts in six of his first seven games and led the Bruins to the best overall record, 16 points ahead of the Rangers.
"We had a rookie, but it was Brimsek. He was in the nets all year and he was one of the greatest ever," Schmidt said. "In the playoffs, the goaltender will decide which team is going to win most of the time.
"It was the most amazing time because we were just kids -- Frankie, Bobby, Woody and myself. There wasn't any love between the two teams, believe me. It was very trying but we had great players on our club, such as Shore, Clapper and Cowley. They always reminded us that what we did during the year didn't count right now. We were playing for the Stanley Cup. You don't give 100 percent anymore; you give 125 percent until it hurts. Then you know that you're giving. They reminded us of that all the time."
Rask took over the starting job in Boston at midseason and went on to the lead the NHL with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. He was the only goalie this season with a GAA below 2.00.
Davey Kerr had been the Rangers' goalie for most of the 1930s and would lead them to the 1940 Stanley Cup, against the Bruins, but he was hurt in Game 1 and the Rangers promoted Bert Gardiner from their Philadelphia farm club for the final six games. It's similar to how Brian Boucher led this year's Flyers into this series with an outstanding first-round performance against the New Jersey Devils, but was hurt in Game 5 against Boston and replaced by Michael Leighton.
"This Flyers goalie, the Bruins haven't really tested him because a lot of shots were scrambly and a lot of them from well out," Schmidt said. "I've only seen them test him really well once. They've got to test him tonight early, because if they don't he's going to get more confidence as it goes on."
Contact John McGourty at email@example.com