10 Most Memorable Stanley Cup Finals

Jun 9th, 2011

There’s nothing quite like hockey drama on the game’s grandest stage. The Stanley Cup Finals have provided a multitude of memorable moments throughout history, as the NHL’s hardened, most resilient players have skated into their highest gears in pursuit of the most coveted trophy in sports. The following series offered the best competition and the most drama, and each required every last bit of energy from the competing players. If you love playoff intensity — you don’t need an anatomy degree to know only the strongest survive — and enjoy witnessing the thrill of victory and agony of defeat, then read on for some quality nostalgia.

  1. Montreal over Chicago, 1971

    Hockey’s most dominant franchise displayed its fortitude by overcoming a 0-2 series deficit to defeat the Blackhawks. The impressive play of Frank and Pete Mahovlich, who combined to score nine goals and 15 points, enabled the Canadiens to extend the series, and Henri Richard’s Game 7 heroics, in which he scored the game-tying and game-winning goals, secured Game 7 in hostile Chicago Stadium. It was just the second time ever that a road team won Game 7, an upset that wouldn’t occur again until the 2009 series. The Canadiens would proceed to win five more Stanley Cup titles during the decade.

  2. Philadelphia over Buffalo, 1975

    This matchup was intriguing merely because it was a change of pace, as it was the only series that didn’t involve the Bruins or Canadiens from 1965 to 1979. The Flyers, the defending champs known as the "Broad Street Bullies," faced a stiff challenge from the upstart Sabres, who were rebounding from a subpar 1974 season. After falling behind in the series 0-2, the underdogs responded in Game 3, the famous "Fog Game," in which unusually high temps in Buffalo caused heavy fog in Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. Despite not being able to see the puck at times, the Sabres won 5-4 in overtime on Rene Robert’s goal. The play of the game, however, was executed by Sabres center Jim Lorentz, who, using only his stick, killed a bat that had been continuously fluttering around the arena, a move that was considered by many to be a bad omen. The Sabres went on to lose the Series in six games.

  3. Edmonton over Philadelphia, 1987

    The Oilers and Flyers were hockey’s two goliaths of the late ’80s — in the Oilers’ case, they were the goliath of the ’80s — as each had finished with the league’s best record for three consecutive seasons. Their second meeting since 1985 was a classic 7-game series, with six tough games. The decisive final game featured goals from the Oilers’ usual suspects, Mark Messier and Jari Kurri, and late-game domination that was characteristic of the team’s dynasty. Even though his team lost, Ron Hextall won the Conn Smythe Trophy. His 40-save Game 7 performance alone ensured he was worthy of the award.

  4. Calgary over Montreal, 1989

    Fewer than 10 years after relocating from Atlanta, the Flames were poised to bring the Cup to Calgary. After surviving a first-round 7-game series against the Canucks, they cruised to the Stanley Cup Finals, where the always-formidable Canadiens awaited. A Game 3 double-overtime thriller gave the Canadiens a 2-1 lead, but the Flames won the next three games, including two in the Montreal Forum. With the 4-2 clincher in Game 6, they became the only team to win the Cup on the Canadiens’ home ice. Al MacInnis, the first defenseman to lead the league in playoff scoring, claimed the Conn Smythe Trophy.

  5. Pittsburgh over Minnesota, 1991

    For the first time in franchise history, the Penguins reached the Stanley Cup Finals. On the other end, it was the last time in Minnesota history (for now) that its franchise reached the Finals. Mario Lemieux, the series’ best performer, made it count for the Penguins. Playing in just five of the six games, he scored five goals and 12 points, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy. His most memorable moment occurred in Game 2, when he made a spectacular goal after splitting two defensemen and then faking out goaltender Jon Casey. With his leadership, the Penguins beat the Cinderella North Stars in six games.

  6. NY Rangers over Vancouver, 1994

    It was a summer to remember in New York City. The Rangers and Knicks, for the first time since the ’70s, had reached the championship round in their respective leagues. The Rangers, though, were the team that made the city proud. Their eventful journey included Mark Messier’s Eastern Conference Finals guarantee, a heartbreaking Stanley Cup Finals Game 1 overtime defeat after allowing a last-minute game-tying goal to Martin Gelinas, and their failure to close out the series in Games 5 and 6. The Rangers ended their 54-year Cup drought with a dramatic Game 7 victory before an emotional crowd at Madison Square Garden.

  7. Dallas over Buffalo, 1999

    Eight years after their second-ever Stanley Cup Finals appearance, the Stars would return — but this time representing Dallas — and provide an even more exciting series. Four of the six games between the Stars and Sabres were decided by one goal, including the legendary triple-overtime Game 6. Deadlocked at one goal apiece early in the final overtime, Brett Hull returned a rebound by Dominik Hasek, ending the longest Cup-winning game and longest Finals game in history. Controversy ensued as Sabres fans questioned the legality of the goal because his left skate was in the crease. Soon after, the NHL attempted to clarify the rule, asserting that the goal was in fact good.

  8. Colorado over New Jersey, 2001

    Although a matchup between the Avalanche and Devils was somewhat anticipated given their performances during the regular season, it was a bit unlikely because rarely do the top seeds in each conference survive to reach the Finals. Led by Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Milan Hejduk, Adam Foote, Patrick Roy and former long-time Boston Bruin Ray Bourque, the Avalanche roster was equipped with enough firepower to rally from a 2-3 series deficit, most notably winning Game 6 on the road. Roy won the Conn Smythe Trophy, his third, but Bourque was the center of attention as he ended his accomplished 21-season career by finally capturing the Cup.

  9. Tampa Bay over Calgary, 2004

    The Lightning, just twelve years old, were hoping to not only win their first Cup, but claim the first Cup for the Southeast division. Favored to win the series, they fell behind 1-2 after an uneventful first three games that were each decided by three goals. The momentum of the series shifted in Game 4 due to a masterful performance by Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who tallied his fifth shutout of the postseason. The Flames’ Oleg Saprykin won Game 5 with an overtime goal, and Game 6, the potential series-clincher in Calgary, featured a controversial no-goal from the Flames’ Martin Gelinas and a series-saving overtime goal from Martin St. Louis. The Lightning outlasted the Flames in a nerve-racking Game 7.

  10. Pittsburgh over Detroit, 2009

    With a brand new coach who took over the reins during the regular season, the Penguins entered the playoffs with a new attitude. Playing their best hockey, Sidney Crosby and his teammates had the confidence to avenge their previous year’s loss to the Red Wings, and show Marian Hossa that he made the wrong decision in free agency. In a grueling seven games, the Penguins battled from behind — they were down 0-2 and 2-3 — winning Games 6 and 7 by a goal apiece with the excellent goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury. Evgeni Malkin became the first Russian player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, and Crosby became the youngest captain to win the Cup.