2012 Los Angeles Kings and Biggest Cinderellas in Stanley Cup Playoff History
The Los Angeles Kings are now at the halfway point of their unprecedented run to a championship. This is the farthest the team has advanced in the playoffs since their appearance in the 1993 Stanley Cup finals.
They were the last team to clinch a playoff spot in the Western Conference and are now the first team to earn a trip to the Conference finals.
It began with a five-game upset over the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, the team with the NHL's best regular-season record, and continued with their sweep of the St. Louis Blues, who tied for the second best record in the regular season.
Strong play from the likes of Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty, as well as the stellar goaltending of Jonathan Quick, have helped make the Kings a headliner in Southern California, even with the early success of Matt Kemp and the Dodgers and the the playoff runs of the Lakers and Clippers.
Staples Center could be booked solid for the month of May and the better part of June if all three of their tenants continue playing well.
Even if they don't lift Lord Stanley's Cup next month, the Kings' playoff run will be remembered by hockey fans for years to come like these other Cinderellas from the last 20 or so years.
1991 Minnesota North Stars
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The 1991 North Stars had no business being in the Stanley Cup playoffs, let alone the Stanley Cup finals. Their .425 winning percentage was the lowest ever for a team that made it to the finals. Minnesota finished the regular season with 68 points, the sixth-lowest point total in what was then a 21-team league.
In the first round, they upset the Chicago Blackhawks, who had the league's best record after finishing the regular season with 106 points, or 38 more points than the North Stars. It was the second-largest point differential ever overcome by a lower seed in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Minnesota continued their miraculous run over St. Louis Blues (second-best record in the league with 105 points) and only needed five games to get past the defending champion Edmonton Oilers in the Campbell Conference finals.
The North Stars led the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 after three games in the finals before losing the next three games of that series by a combined score of 19-7.
Two years later, the franchise relocated to the Lone Star State and finally won a championship in 1999 as the Dallas Stars.
1993 New York Islanders
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By the beginning of the 1990s, the New York Islanders were far from the NHL powerhouse they had been the previous two decades. The Islanders missed the playoffs three of their four previous years going into the 1992-1993 season.
Led by Pierre Turgeon (58 goals and 74 assists) in his first full season for the Islanders, Steve Thomas and Russian defensemen Vladimir Malakov and Darius Kasparaitis, the Islanders finished third the Patrick Division with 87 points.
They beat the Washington Capitals in a six-game first-round series, winning three of those games in overtime.
This team will always be remembered for their massive upset against the the twice-defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference finals, a team that seemed well on their way to becoming the NHL's next dynasty.
The Penguins dominated the regular season (winning a record 17 consecutive games at one point) and had five players with at least 94 points, including Mario Lemieux, who won the scoring title after missing nearly a fourth of the season because of his treatment for Hogdkin's Lymphoma.
The Islanders were big underdogs, especially with Pierre Turgeon out of action for the series.
Pittsburgh led 3-2 after fives games, in which no team won consecutive games. The Islanders won a high-scoring Game 6 7-5 and completed their upset with a 4-3 overtime win, capped off by a series-clinching goal from David Volek.
Volek's goal came only seven months after Sid Bream's game-winning run for the Atlanta Braves against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 7 of the NLCS. Both of them will forever be despised in Pittsburgh.
Turgeon returned to the Islanders for their Wales Conference finals series with the Montreal Canadians, but the the team still fell to the eventual Stanley Cup winners in five games.
The Islanders returned to the playoffs the following season, but they were swept by the Rangers in the first round.
1994 Vancouver Canucks
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The 1994 Vancouver Canucks are one of the more underrated Cinderellas in NHL history. Their run to Stanley Cup finals is often overshadowed by the New York Rangers' triumph that ended their 54-year championship drought.
In the first round of the playoffs, trailing 3-1 after four games, Vancouver came back to win their series against the Calgary Flames with three consecutive overtime wins.
The Canucks only needed five games to get past the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs in their next playoff series before their showdown against the heavily favored New York Rangers.
Vancouver won Game 1 in overtime at Madison Square Garden 3-2 before losing the next three games of the series by a combined total of eight goals. The Canucks won Game 5 (6-3) and Game 6 (4-1) to set up a Game 7 that would become one of the most memorable in NHL history.
Their great run ended with a 3-2 loss, in which they trailed 2-0 after the first period. Trevor Linden scored his second goal of the game to cut the Canucks' deficit to one with less than five minutes to play, but Vancouver was unable to pull off another miraculous finish to complete their championship run.
1995 New Jersey Devils
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The 1995 New Jersey Devils weren't your typical underdog in the playoffs after losing a hard-fought seven-game series to the Rangers in the Conference finals the prior season, but as a No. 5 seed, they were the lowest seed to ever lift the Stanley Cup.
It seems only fitting that they accomplished this in a strike-shortened season.
Even without home-ice advantage in the postseason, the Devils managed to beat the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins in five games in Rounds 1 and 2.
They went on to beat a young Philadelphia Flyers team in the Eastern Conference finals in an interesting series that saw the road team win five of the first six games of the series.
The Devils swept the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals, thus beginning their championship run.
This would not be the last time the Detroit Red Wings would make it to the finals in the Steve Yzerman era; they became a dynasty in their own right, winning three of the next seven Stanley Cups.
It also wasn't the last time that the Detroit Red Wings would run into Claude Lemieux in the playoffs, who was named the Conn Smythe winner after scoring 13 goals for the Devils on their way to the franchise's first title.
1999 Buffalo Sabres
At the turn of the century and the height of the dead puck era, Dominik Hasek was arguably the most dominant player in the NHL.
He won the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP in 1997 and 1998, and he was a prime example of how a great goalie can carry a team in the playoffs.
The Dominator was a big reason why the Buffalo Sabres nearly won the Stanley Cup as a No. 7 seed in 1999.
Buffalo needed only four games to get past the second-seeded Ottawa Senators in a first round in which the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference were eliminated.
This set up a second-round series with the Boston Bruins, who they beat in six games on the way to their second consecutive appearance in the Conference finals.
After getting past their border rival Toronto Maple Leafs in six games, the Sabres were off to the finals for the second time in franchise history. Their opponent was the Presidents' Trophy-winning Dallas Stars, who were loaded with talented players like Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, Brett Hull and Ed Belfour.
This matchup will always be remembered for the controversial ending in Buffalo in Game 6. With Dallas up 3-2 in the series, Buffalo's chances were still alive for a long-awaited title with the game tied 1-1 heading in to triple-overtime.
Brett Hull scored the championship-winning goal for Dallas, despite having his foot in the crease before the puck. The end result is still a debated topic today among hockey fans even outside of Buffalo.
Interestingly enough, Dominik Hasek and Brett Hull would become teammates only a few years later and help the Detroit Red Wings win the 2002 Stanley Cup.
2003 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
The 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs will always be remembered for the play of Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Giguere had one of the best Conn Smythe performances in NHL history, posting a 1.62 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and six shutouts, carrying the Mighty Ducks just short of the Stanley Cup.
The Mighty Ducks swept the defending champion Detroit Red Wings in the first round before getting past another NHL powerhouse, the Dallas Stars, in the second round (including a 4-3 Game 1 win in quintuple-overtime).
Their opponent in the Western Conference finals was the sixth-seeded Minnesota Wild, who, in only their third year of existence, were coming off playoff series wins over the Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks.
Minnesota would prove to be no match for J.S., who recorded shutouts in the first three games of Anaheim's sweep. The Mighty Ducks would go on to face a New Jersey Devils team in the Stanley Cup finals that was coming off a seven-game series with the Ottawa Senators and looking to win their third title in nine seasons.
New Jersey defeated the Mighty Ducks in a dull seven-game series in which the home team won every game and five of the games were decided by three goals.
Giguere and the soon-to-be Anaheim Ducks would return to the finals only four years later, winning their first Stanley Cup after a five-game series with the Ottawa Senators.
2004 Calgary Flames
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Miikka Kiprusoff set the modern day NHL record for goals against average (1.69) in the final season of the deadpuck era and the Calgary Flames almost became the lowest seed to ever win the Stanley Cup.
The sixth seeded Flames beat the top three seeds in the Western Conference on their way to the finals against the high scoring Tampa Bay Lightning.
After splitting the first four games, Calgary took a decisive 3-2 series lead after an overtime win in Game 5. Tampa Bay responded with a double overtime win in Game 6 and completed their title run with a 2-1 win in the final game of the NHL's pre-salary cap era.
2006 Edmonton Oilers
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These certainly weren't the Oilers of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.
The 2006 Edmonton Oilers nearly became the biggest Cinderella championship team of all time in the first season of the post-lockout NHL.
In Round 1, they beat an impressive Detroit Red Wings team in six games (they seem to show up a lot on this list). The Wings had recorded 124 points in the regular season, their second-highest total in franchise history.
Just like the 1999 Buffalo Sabres, the Oilers' run to the Stanley Cup finals was helped by other upsets on their side of the bracket.
The Western Conference's top four seeds fell in the first round, while the top four from the Eastern Conference moved on to the second round.
The Oilers faced little competition on their way to the finals, besting the San Jose Sharks in six games and defeating the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (who would go on to win the Stanley Cup the following year) in a five-game conference final.
They dropped their first two games in their matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes and were on the verge of elimination before a 4-3 overtime win in Game 5. Edmonton recorded a 4-0 win in Game 6, setting up a seventh and deciding game in the Stanley Cup finals for a third consecutive year.
The Oilers' miraculous playoff run came up short of their sixth championship in franchise history after a 3-1 loss in the final game of the season.
Edmonton has not returned to the playoffs since that run to the finals, but they seem to have a bright future with the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and possibly Nail Yakupov.
2009 Anaheim Ducks
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It's hard to believe this team was just a No. 8 seed with all the talent they had and being just two years removed from a Stanley Cup. Not many No. 8 seeds have a two Hall of Fame defensemen, as well as scorers like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne.
The Ducks had little trouble getting past the San Jose Sharks in the first round, winning the first two games of that series and leading it 3-1 at one point.
Few expected Anaheim to compete in the second round with a deep and talented Detroit Red Wings team looking to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
The Ducks lost the first game 3-2, but they proved their worth as contenders with a 4-3 triple-overtime win in Game 2. Anaheim took a 2-1 series lead, but they found themselves trailing once again after losses in Games 4 and 5.
The Ducks bounced back with a 2-1 victory in Game 6, giving themselves a chance to knock off the top two seeds in the same playoff year, and pull off yet another upset against Detroit.
The Red Wings led the seventh game 3-1 late in the second period until the Ducks responded with a pair of goals to tie things up. Daniel Cleary scored the series-clinching goal for Detroit with three minutes left in regulation to end Anaheim's season.
Had they pulled off another upset, these Ducks probably would have been favored against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals and could have beaten the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals.
2010 Montreal Canadians
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After earning the final spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs by a single point in the standings over the New York Rangers, Les Habitants faced even closer calls in the postseason against the NHL's biggest stars.
After beating the high-scoring Washington Capitals 3-2 in Game 1, the Canadians' season seemed over after losing the next three games in the series. Montreal rallied back to win the next three, in large part due to Jaroslav Halak, who allowed only a single goal in each of those contests.
It was impressive goaltending against one of the highest-scoring teams in NHL history. Washington averaged nearly four goals per game and won their (weak Southeast) division by 38 points.
Halak helped Montreal knock off the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the next round after trailing in the series 3-2 after five games.
While their run was impressive, they weren't the biggest Cinderella team from the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs...
2010 Philadelphia Flyers
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A Chris Pronger-team makes the list for a third time.
The 2010 Flyers responded to adversity multiple times with their season on the line.
Philadelphia never would have made the playoffs in the first place had they not won their final regular-season game against the New York Rangers in a shootout.
After squeaking by just to get in the postseason and getting past the New Jersey Devils in five games, the Flyers came back to win their second-round series against the second-seeded Boston Bruins after losing the first three games.
This set up the first-ever NHL Eastern Conference finals matchup between a seventh and eighth seed. The Flyers got past their old rivals, the Montreal Canadians, in five games, with Michael Leighton netting three shutouts along the way.
Philadelphia would meet their match in the Stanley Cup finals against the Chicago Blackhawks in a six-game series.
2012 Los Angeles Kings
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The 2012 Los Angles Kings have now eliminated the top two seeds in their conference in the same postseason year. They are the first team to do this since Jarome Iginla and the 2004 Calgary Flames.
They will likely be favored against the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference finals after posting an 8-1 record through two playoff rounds.
A Stanley Cup triumph next month would make them the kings of this season and for the discussion of the greatest Cinderella runs in NHL history.