The Los Angeles Kings cruised through the first round of the playoffs at a brisk 12-2 pace. While they were at it they didn't lose a road game.
The NHL went to four rounds of best of seven playoff series back in 1987, supplanting what had been a four-round playoffs with a best-of-five first-round series. Since that time, the best record any team has managed to put up in the first three rounds is that same 12 wins and two losses LA managed this year.
Last night, Los Angeles won the first game of the Stanley Cup finals 2-1 in overtime over the New Jersey Devils in Newark. This keeps them on track with the 1988 Edmonton Oilers, who are the only NHL team to go 12-2 in the first three rounds of the playoffs and then sweep their opponent in the Stanley Cup final.
This slideshow is a quick look at the other six teams who went 12-2 in the preliminary rounds of the NHL playoffs and how they did in the Stanley Cup final.
Division Semi-Finals: Edmonton 4 Los Angeles Kings 1
Division Finals: Edmonton Oilers 4 Winnipeg Jets 0
Conference Finals: Edmonton Oilers 4 Detroit Red Wings 1
Stanley Cup Finals: Edmonton Oilers 4 Philadelphia Flyers 3
The sell off of talent was yet to begin and the trading of Wayne Gretzky was unimaginable. The core of the team was 26 years old. Gretzky, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Jari Kurri and Andy Moog were all 26.
More importantly still, this team was motivated by their second-round loss to the Flames the year before. They were not interested in losing any games, let alone a playoff series.
They lost their first game of their first series 5-2 to a Los Angeles team that featured Luc Robitaille, Bernie Nicholls and Jimmy Carson, along with 30+ veterans Dave Taylor and Marcel Dionne.
That early loss must have cause some flashbacks, because they bounced back with one of the most devastating Stanley Cup playoff wins of all time. They beat LA 13-3—the most ever scored by one team in an NHL playoff game. The remaining games were all much closer, but the series was never in doubt.
They then swept Dale Hawerchuk and the Winnipeg Jets before taking out a Detroit Red Wing team featuring Steve Yzerman, Gerard Gallant, Adam Oates and Petr Klima, all in their early 20's.
These Oilers were not to be denied. They had a hard-fought seven-game series with a Tim Kerr. Brian Propp, Mark Howe-led Flyer team. Young Pelle Eklund and Ron Hextall were great for the Flyers in the playoffs, but it wasn't enough to beat Coffey and Company.
Division Semi-Finals: Edmonton Oilers 4 Winnipeg Jets 1
Division Finals: Edmonton Oilers 4 Calgary Flames 0
Conference Finals: Edmonton Oilers 4 Detroit Red Wings 1
Stanley Cup Finals: Edmonton Oilers 4 Boston Bruins 0
The Edmonton Oilers had seen Paul Coffey traded away in the offseason. Still, their stars were in their prime and no one challenged Gretzky and the Oilers on their way to the Stanley cup this year.
The playoff structure at the time saw teams play two playoff series in their own division before going to the conference and then Stanley Cup finals. This resulted in the same teams meeting in the playoffs year after year after year.
This time, Hawerchuk and the Jets managed to win a game before Edmonton put them away.
The Calgary Flames, despite having a team that would win the cup next year and being specifically designed to compete with and beat the Edmonton Oilers were no match for them this year.
Hakan Loob, Al Macinnis, Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Suter, Mike Bullard and even the late addition of sniper Joe Mullen weren't enough to compete with the Edmonton Oilers, and they were swept.
The Oilers likewise dispatched their conference final victim from the year before, the Detroit Red Wings in five games. They clobbered them and goalie Greg Stefan 8-4 in the fifth and final game.
The Oilers met the second seed out of the east, the Ray Bourque, Ken Linesman, Cam Neely-led Bruins, but Boston's line-up could not compete with Edmonton. Even a power failure in Boston in game four couldn't prevent the inevitable. The Oilers finished the game and Boston 6-3 at the Northlands Coliseum two nights later.
These Oilers, at 16-2, have the best record in the Stanley Cup playoffs since 1987.
Division Finals: Chicago Blackhawks 4 Detroit Red Wings 0
Conference Finals: Chicago Blackhawks 4 Edmonton Oilers 0
Stanley Cup Finals: Pittsburgh Penguins 4 Chicago Blackhawks 0
The 1992 Chicago Blackhawks were a veteran team led by Steve Larmer, Chris Chelios, Dirk Graham and Michel Goulet who were all 30 or older.
There were a few youngsters like Jeremy Roenick, Bryan Marchment and Stephane Matteau who juiced up the mix. Mostly, however, they were dependent on 26-year-old goalie Ed Belfour. As he went, so went the Blackhawks.
Chicago had trouble with division rival St Louis in the first round, going 2-2 through the first four games.
The Blues had a high-powered offense that featured Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan, playmaker Craig Janney, and offensive defenseman Jeff Brown. They also featured a pretty goalie of their own in 24 year old Curtis Joseph. The Blackhawks managed to win the next two games and the series.
They then went to Detroit and swept Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov and Nick Lidstrom away. This Detroit team didn't seem to have the goaltending to compete in the playoffs. They depended on Vincent Riendeau and Tim Cheveldae that year and had to solve their goaltending issues before this highly talented team would be able to compete.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they made it to the Stanley Cup finals in the year when one of the great NHL teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins of the early 90s, had finally found themselves after years in the wilderness.
These Penguins had won their first Stanley Cup the year before. Their lineup featured the great Mario Lemieux, power forwards Kevin Stevens and Rick Tocchet, Ron Francis, a 19-year-old Jaromir Jagr, and a great offensive defenseman in Larry Murphy.
If that wasn't enough, they got great playoff goaltending from Tom Barasso and were coached by all-time great Scotty Bowman.
The Penguins swept the Blackhawks in four games. Chicago became the first NHL team to go 12-2 in the first three rounds of the NHL playoffs and then lose the Stanley Cup.
Division Semi-Finals: Detroit Red Wings 4 Dallas Stars 1
Division Finals: Detroit Red Wings 4 San Jose Sharks 0
Conference Finals: Detroit Red Wings 4 Chicago Blackhawks 1
Stanley Cup Finals: New Jersey Devils 4 Detroit Red Wings 0
Many felt the strike-shortened 1994-95 season was destined to be Detroit's year. After more than a decade of rebuilding that started with the drafting of Steve Yzerman back in 1983, the Red Wings had assembled a team that seemed unrivalled for talent.
They dominated the regular season that year, losing only 11 of 48 games. They were led in scoring that year by veteran defenseman Paul Coffey.
They had a mix of veterans, youngsters and players in their prime with Coffey, Dino Ciccarelli, Viacheslav Fetisov , Doug Brown (30 or more), Vyacheslav Kozlov, Keith Primeau, Kris Draper, Martin Lapointe, Darren McCarty (23 or less) and with Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman, Nick Lidstrom and Ray Sheppard caught somewhere in between.
They seemed to have solved their goaltending problems too, with veteran Mike Vernon (31) and the up-and-coming Chris Osgood (22).
This time they had Scotty Bowman as their coach.
They handled the Dallas Stars and Dave Gagner, Kevin Hatcher, and Mike Modano in a low-pressure five-game series.
They swept a very young San Jose Shark team featuring Ray Whitney, Ulf Dahlen, Pat Falloon and Sandis Ozolinish that just couldn't seem to get any goaltending out of Wade Flaherty or Arturs Irbe. Detroit outscored San Jose 24-6 in the four game series, including a 6-0 kicking in game one.
The conference finals saw them butt heads against a tough, veteran Chicago Blackhawk team. This time it was Tony Amonte adding the youthful enthusiasm and skill to a Chris Chelios, Denis Savard, Bernie Nicholls , Gary Suter led line-up.
Again, it was Ed Belfour who seemed to keep Chicago in it. Detroit won three overtime games to take the series in five.
The Stanley Cup finals were expected to be a foregone conclusion. The New Jersey Devils were the fifth seed in the East and had finished tied in points and wins with the Washington Capitals.
They finished 18 points behind the Detroit Red Wings in a 48-game season. Detroit had given up four fewer goals and scored 44 (almost one a game) more than New Jersey had managed in the regular season.
While Detroit had cruised through the first rounds of the playoffs, New Jersey had beaten the Bruins and Penguins in five games each and then struggled a bit against the division champion Philadelphia Flyers, overcoming them in six games after the departure of an injured Eric Lindros.
This Devils team was lead in scoring by Stephane Richer. They got timely scoring from the eventual Conn Smythe trophy winner Claude Lemieux, who potted 13 goals in 20 games. The defense featured top-quality puck mover Scott Niedermayer.
The story in New Jersey though was 22-year-old goalie Martin Brodeur, who put up a 16-4 record and a .927 save percentage and 1.67 GAA with three shut-outs in 20 playoff games.
Coach Jacques Lemaire was in his second season behind the bench in New Jersey. His defensive system allowed his team to shut down the talented Detroit Red Wings and helped Brodeur put up those great numbers.
Lemaire and the trap, great goaltending and some timely scoring helped the Devils sweep the Red Wings. Detroit became the second 12-2 team not only to lose the Stanley Cup but also to be swept in the final.
Conference Quarter-Finals: Anaheim Mighty Ducks 4 Detroit Red Wings 0
Conference Semi-Finals: Anaheim Mighty Ducks 4 Dallas Stars 2
Conference Finals: Anaheim Mighty Ducks 4 Minnesota Wild 0
Stanley Cup Finals: New Jersey Devils 4 Anaheim Mighty Ducks 3
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim were the seventh seed in the West this year having finished second in the Pacific, 16 points behind the Dallas Stars. They had a good, young lineup with Paul Kariya, Petr Sykora and Mike Leclerc being supported by the venerable Adam Oates (40) and Steve Thomas (39).
They were a good defensive team with an excellent young goaltending tandem in Jean-Sebatien Giguere and Martin Gerber.
They swept the more talented Detroit Red Wings, who had won the Cup the year before. Detroit simply couldn't score against Giguere and that Anaheim team. They lost two games in overtime and all the games by one goal, managing to hit the twine just six times in four games.
The Stars proved a tougher challenge despite losing the first two games at home in overtime. They lost the first game in quintuple overtime, and Mike Modano, Sergei Zubov and Brenden Morrow simply couldn't come back from those first two devastating losses.
The Mighty Ducks faced another defensively-skilled team in the Conference Finals, the Minnesota Wild. The Wild were led by Marian Gaborik, Wes Walz and Sergei Zholtok in the playoffs, with their goaltending split between Dwayne Roloson and Manny Fernandez. They only scored a single goal in the four game loss.
The Mighty Ducks came into the finals versus the Martin Brodeur-led New Jersey Devils. He put up two 3-0 shut-outs in the first two games of the series to give Anaheim a taste of their own medicine.
They managed a couple of overtime wins and then the teams swapped big offensive wins (NJ 6 ANA 3 in game five) (ANA 5 NJ 2 in game six) before Martin Brodeur and company closed them out 3-0 in the final game.
J.S. Giguere won the Conn Smythe trophy that year, even though he was the losing goalie in the cup final. The Ducks would eventually sign New Jersey's star defenseman from this series, Scott Niedermayer, who led the playoff scoring with a mere 18 points that year.
Anaheim was the third 12-2 team to lose in the finals.
Conference Quarter Finals: Pittsburgh Penguins 4 Ottawa Senators 0
Conference Semi-Finals: Pittsburgh Penguins 4 New York Rangers 1
Conference Finals: Pittsburgh Penguins 4 Philadelphia Flyers 1
Stanley Cup Finals: Detroit Red Wings 4 Pittsburgh Penguins 2
The Pittsburgh Penguins were a Stanley Cup favourite back in 2008. Led by Evgeni Malkin having a career year, the injured Sidney Crosby, veteran Sergei Gonchar and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, they were expected to come out of the East.
They might not match up well with the Western champion but they certainly had plenty of talent. They added Marian Hossa for more offense and seemed to have plenty of role-players in Brooks Orpik, Jordan Staal, Maxime Talbot and Pascual Dupuis.
They clobbered an Ottawa Senator team that historically had playoff problems. Daniel Alfredsson was hurt and Dany Heatley, Wade Redden, Jason Spezza and Martin Gerber had a short, forgettable playoffs.
They then took out the Rangers in five games. Led by Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka and Scott Gomez and with Henrik Lundqvist in net, they couldn't get untracked until game four when it was too late.
Pittsburgh then handled the recently rebuilt Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers' line-up featured Danny Briere, Mike Richards, RJ Umberger, Jeff Carter, Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn. Martin Biron was brought in to be the answer in goal, but wasn't good enough versus Pittsburgh.
The Penguins then met the President's trophy winning Detroit Red Wings in the finals. Detroit was led by Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterburg and Nicklas Lidstrom. The big three on defense was filled out by Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall on defense. Chris Osgood was good in goal and Johan Franzen provided timely scoring.
It was a fairly hard-fought final series. Detroit set the tone with two home ice shut-outs to begin and Pittsburgh won game five in triple overtime to take it to six, but Detroit finally won the cup with a 3-2 victory in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins became the fourth 12-2 team to lose the Stanley Cup.
Going 12-2 is obviously no guarantee of Stanley Cup final success. Of the six times it was done before, only the 1987 and 1988 Edmonton Oilers actually followed up by winning a cup.
Apparently, it is also tough to beat the New Jersey Devils and Martin Brodeur in the finals after going 12-2. Devil teams defeated both the 12-2 Detroit Red Wings in 1995 and the 2003 Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
Los Angeles might feel doubly worried because of this, except of course your record before the final is unlikely to have much influence on how you do in the final. A 12-2 team might expect to be better rested than their opponent. They might also expect to be rustier because of all their time off.
In the end, it will come down to the better team playing a better system. Los Angeles has already won game one in New Jersey. They just might be the 12-2 team that finally beats Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup finals.
If they manage to sweep the Devils, they will join the 1988 Edmonton Oilers as the only other team to manage that feat.