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NHL Stanley Cup Final: The 10 Worst Matchups of the Last 50 Years

Ron MillerContributor IIIJanuary 9, 2017

NHL Stanley Cup Final: The 10 Worst Matchups of the Last 50 Years

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    The Los Angeles Kings will look to secure their first ever Stanley Cup with one final win against the New Jersey Devils tonight.

    While this postseason has been anything but boring, it is safe to say the fans of the NHL—and the league itself—were hoping for a more intriguing matchup in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. 

    Also, the possibility of a series Kings sweep only adds to the mediocrity of this series.

    There have been many Stanley Cup Final matchups throughout history that, when seen on paper, did not necessarily get the average NHL fan's blood pumping.

    Here are the 10 worst Stanley Cup Final matchups of the last 50 years.

10. 1966 Montreal Canadiens vs. Detroit Red Wings

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    While this sounds like a fantastic matchup in today's NHL, you have to think back to the limited possibilities of the league back in 1966.

    There was no "Original Six"—that nostalgic nickname for all six original NHL franchises had not come into use yet. The Original Six was the entire league.

    With that in mind you can bet hockey fans did not want this matchup.

    I have to believe hockey fans in 1966 would rather have seen the Canadiens face off once again with the Chicago Blackhawks. Just a year earlier, the Canadiens and 'Hawks took part in a dramatic seven-game final in which Montreal came away victorious.

    In this Final, Montreal would go on to dispatch Detroit in six games.

9. 1988 Edmonton Oilers vs. Boston Bruins

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    To be fair, it seemed as if no one really had a chance against the Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers in the 1988 postseason.

    The Bruins proved to be no match for Edmonton and the Oilers swept them in the Final, finishing the playoffs with a record of 16-2.

    The more intriguing potential matchup in 1988 would have been the Edmonton Oilers against the upstart New Jersey Devils.

    The underdog Devils had just barely squeezed into the playoffs, then went on a tremendous postseason run, before losing to Boston in seven games in the conference finals.

    The fact that Wayne Gretzky had also called the Devils a "Mickey Mouse Organization" just a few years earlier would have only fueled the fire of a potential Oilers-Devils series.

8. 1995 New Jersey Devils vs. Detroit Red Wings

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    In 1995 the New Jersey Devils neutral-zone trap system rose to prominence.

    The Devils would get a one- or two-goal lead and sit back, utilizing only one player to forecheck.

    While the strategy paid off greatly in the win column, it was not very popular among fans of the game. It made for some boring and frustrating hockey.

    So it goes without saying that seeing the Devils in the Stanley Cup Final was not a perfect scenario for the league.

    They faced a Detroit team that depended on offense. Needless to say, the Red Wings were no problem for the Devils.

    A Philadelphia vs. Detroit matchup may have served the league better in 1995. But the Devils eliminated the Flyers in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals that year.

7. 1981 New York Islanders vs. Minnesota North Stars

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    The 1981 Stanley Cup Final pitted the defending champion New York Islanders against the underdog Minnesota North Stars.

    The Islanders simply dismantled the less-experienced North Stars.

    New York won the series in five games and scored at least five goals in their four wins.

6. 1970 Boston Bruins vs. St. Louis Blues

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    While this series did provide hockey fans with possibly the most recognizable goal of all time, the matchup was not that intriguing on paper—or on the ice.

    St. Louis had made it to the Cup Final the two previous seasons. They were swept both times.

    Make that three sweeps for the Blues; Bobby Orr's iconic Cup-clinching goal in overtime of Game 4 gave Boston its first Stanley Cup in nearly 30 years.

5. 2003 New Jersey Devils vs. Anaheim Mighty Ducks

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    This matchup of two smaller-market squads looked like a recipe for low ratings.

    The series turned out to be an intense seven-game masterpiece, full of ups and downs for both teams.

    While it may not have been a widely-viewed series, it far exceeded expectations.

4. 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Minnesota North Stars

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    The Minnesota North Stars appear once again on this list, with their 1991 matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Looking back, it's hard to argue that this final should have even occurred.

    The North Stars finished the regular season 12 games under .500! A record like that would have you at the bottom of today's NHL, hoping for the top draft pick.

    Instead, it had Minnesota in the Stanley Cup Final. 

    The series turned out to be somewhat exciting. However, the high-powered Penguins were just too much for the North Stars.

    Pittsburgh clinched the Stanley Cup with an 8-0 victory in Game 6.

3. 2007 Anaheim Ducks vs. Ottawa Senators

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    It's never the greatest thing for an American hockey fan when a Canadian team makes it to the Stanley Cup Final, and it's even worse when they're playing a team from Southern California.

    The 2007 Cup Final would have been more intriguing had Buffalo beaten Ottawa in the Eastern Conference Finals. At least the East Coast-West Coast dynamic of such a series would have held some of America's attention.

    The series itself ended up being pretty mediocre, as well. The Ducks beat the Senators in five games.

    What many fans remember from this series is not the actually hockey but Teemu Selanne's tear-filled, euphoric interview after raising the Cup.

2. 2006 Carolina Hurricanes vs. Edmonton Oilers

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    On paper, this matchup was an absolute nightmare for the NHL.

    The league was trying to rebound from its embarrassing 2005 lockout, while also trying to gain new viewership across the country. 

    American viewers would have loved to have seen the NHL boast a large-market Final. 

    Instead they got a series consisting of an eighth-seeded Canadian team against a team hailing from an area much more known for its college sports than hockey.

    However, from a hockey standpoint, this series was great, going back and forth, with Edmonton climbing back from a 3-1 series deficit, only to be defeated in a dramatic Game 7. 

1. 1982 New York Islanders vs. Vancouver Canucks

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    Before this series even began, the outcome was all but a foregone conclusion.

    The Islanders were the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion and had built a dynasty.

    Moreover, the Islanders finished the 1981-82 regular season 38 games over .500. By contrast, the Canucks finished three games under .500,

    The matchup would have been respectable if Vancouver was a Cinderella story. However, this was not the case. To get to the Cup Final, Vancouver did not defeat one opponent with a record over .500 during the regular season.

    Call it the luck of the draw, but Vancouver simply did not belong in the same stadium as the Islanders. New York swept the Canucks and averaged 4.5 goals per game in the series.

    The 1982 Stanley Cup Final between the New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks was the worst in league history.

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