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The 10 Most Incredible First-Round Stanley Cup Playoff Upsets in NHL History

Tom Urtz Jr.Contributor IJanuary 12, 2017

The 10 Most Incredible First-Round Stanley Cup Playoff Upsets in NHL History

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    The 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs are finally here, and with many interesting matchups ahead, it is a great time to look at some of the greatest upsets in league history involving teams like the 2010 Montreal Canadiens, the 2009 Anaheim Ducks and the 2006 Edmonton Oilers.

    The Los Angeles Kings knocked off the Vancouver Canucks last year in five games as a No. 8 seed, and teams like the 1997 Edmonton Oilers have pulled off similar upsets that deserve recognition.

    Here are the 10 most incredible playoff upsets in league history in chronological order.

Honorable Mention: Toronto Maple Leafs Sweep Ottawa Senators

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    The Ottawa Senators played the role of spoiler during the 1998 playoffs, but in 2001 they were on the receiving end of a major playoff upset. The Senators finished the 2000-01 season as the No. 2 seed, and they were ready for an amazing playoff run with a talented roster highlighted by Daniel Alfredsson and Marian Hossa.

    The No. 7 Toronto Maple Leafs had a nice season, but they were considered the underdog in this series.

    Curtis Joseph played amazingly for the Leafs and shut out the Senators for eight consecutive periods before surrendering a goal with 3:09 remaining in the third period in Game 3. The Leafs went on to finish the sweep in Game 4, and they shocked the hockey world in the process after defeating a very successful Senators team.

1981: Edmonton Oilers Sweep Montreal Canadiens

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    In 1981, the playoff format was drastically different from the way things are done today. Every NHL playoff team in 1981 was ranked No. 1 to No. 16 , and the No. 3 Montreal Canadiens faced off against the No. 14 Edmonton Oilers. Although the Canadiens were favored in this series, Wayne Gretzky's play ultimately made the difference.

    The Great One made his impact known when he recorded five assists in the first game of the series, and the Oilers would roll over the Habs as they completed the three-game sweep.

    This was quite a memorable moment for the Oilers, and it was a preview of great things to come for this dynasty team.

1982: Los Angeles Kings Defeat Edmonton Oilers

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    The Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s were one of the greatest teams in NHL history, and in 1982 the hockey world was stunned when the lowly Los Angeles Kings ousted the Edmonton Oilers in the first round.

    During the 1981-82 season, the Oilers were the reigning Smythe Division champions with a regular-season record of 48-17-5 and 111 points. The Kings, on the other hand, finished their season 17 games under .500 and were fourth in the Smythe Division.

    The Kings upset the Oilers by winning three of the five games, and the changing point of the series was a game that has been dubbed the "Miracle on Manchester." During this game the Kings entered the third period trailing 5-0, and it appeared that the Oilers would only need to skate the final 20 minutes of the game

    However, the Kings went on to score five goals in the third period to tie the game, and they later scored in overtime to complete the amazing comeback. The Kings went on the take the series.

    Overall, this upset is probably the most incredible in league history considering the talent the Oilers had on their roster.

1994: San Jose Sharks Shock Detroit Red Wings

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    In 1994, the Detroit Red Wings were one of the best teams in the league, and the San Jose Sharks were a new expansion team still learning how to win. The Sharks were the No. 8 seed with 82 points and the Red Wings had 100 points as the No. 1 seed in the West.

    After scoring a league-best 356 goals during the regular season, the Red Wings were stoned by a young goaltender by the name of Arturs Irbe. Irbe was exceptional in net for the Sharks, and the Red Wings ultimately were defeated in seven games.

1997: Edmonton Oilers Defeat Dallas Stars

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    The Edmonton Oilers have played spoiler a few times throughout their history, and their defeat of the Dallas Stars in 1997 was very impressive.

    Curtis Joseph was hot for the Oilers in the first round, and he was a big reason why the team upset the No. 2-seed Stars. It was a close series that lasted seven games, but it is fair to say that no one expected the Oilers to take down a powerhouse like the Stars.

    The Stars would later realize their potential by going to two straight Stanley Cup Finals, and they captured the Cup against the Buffalo Sabres.

1998: Ottawa Senators Defeated New Jersey Devils

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    Heading into this series, the New Jersey Devils were heavily favored after finishing with the top spot in the Eastern Conference with 108 points. The Ottawa Senators were in their sixth year in the league, and they were the No. 8 seed with low expectations.

    In this series, Alexei Yashin helped propel the Senators to victory in six games, and the Devils were bounced from the playoffs in dramatic fashion. Daniel Alfredsson's hat trick in Game 4 made the series 3-1, and after a small Devils comeback in Game 5, the Senators closed it out in Game 6.

2000: St.Louis Blues Are Stunned by San Jose Sharks

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    The 1999-00 season was one of the St. Louis Blues' best in franchise history. Chris Pronger's play during the season was phenomenal, and he was later awarded the Hart Trophy for his efforts. During the regular season the Blues won the Presidents' Trophy, and they were led by players like Pavol Demitra and Pierre Turgeon.

    Once they got to the playoffs, they ran into trouble with Owen Nolan's San Jose Sharks.

    In the first round of the playoffs, it was a back-and-forth series that went seven games, but ultimately the Sharks stunned the Blues on home ice during the seventh game.

    The Blues team that was defeated was one of their best squads in recent memory, and it is fair to wonder how far they could have gone if they had beaten the Sharks.

2003: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Sweep Detroit Red Wings

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    In 2003, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim pulled off an impressive sweep of the Detroit Red Wings.

    The Red Wings entered the series as the No. 2 seed, but they were unable to solve rookie goaltender J.S. Giguere. Despite having a potent roster of players highlighted by Steve Yzerman, the Ducks' netminder posted a 1.24 GAA against the Red Wings in his first career playoff series.

    The series was over as quickly as it started, and the Red Wings were once again the victim of an incredible first-round upset.

2006: Edmonton Oilers Upset Detroit Red Wings

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    The Edmonton Oilers went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, and they got their playoff run started against the Detroit Red Wings.

    Heading into the playoffs, the Red Wings were riding high off a Presidents' Trophy win, and they had players like Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom on the roster. What happened next for the Red Wings was totally unexpected, and it would go down as one of the most unlikely upsets in league history.

    Dwayne Roloson became an unbeatable goaltender, and he came up big to help the Oilers defeated the Red Wings in six games, three of which were decided by one goal. This was the first time Roloson pulled off an amazing playoff run, and he would repeat it for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011.

2009: San Jose Sharks Defeated by Anaheim Ducks

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    The Anaheim Ducks have been a spoiler a few times since entering the NHL, and their 2009 defeat of the San Jose Sharks in the first round was very impressive. The Sharks were coming off a Presidents' Trophy victory, and they were expected to keep rolling in the playoffs.

    The key to the Ducks' first-round upset in 2003 was J.S. Giguere, and in 2009 Jonas Hiller played a similar role. He went 4-2 for the Ducks against the Sharks.

    It was a series that shocked a lot of people. The 2009 San Jose Sharks were arguably their best playoff team in recent memory, and if they got past the Ducks, they would have had a good chance at winning the Stanley Cup.

2010: Jaroslav Halak Shuts Down the Washington Capitals

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    In 2010, the Washington Capitals were the NHL's best team, and they had Alex Ovechkin, one of the league's top stars, on their roster. Given the way that Ovechkin and the Capitals were playing heading into this series, it was expected that the lowly Montreal Canadiens would be taken out with ease. 

    Nine NHL.com experts picked the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup in 2010, and things were looking good when Washington took a 3-1 series lead. However, no expert expected Jaroslav Halak to take over the series, single-handedly shocking the world in the process.

    Halak's time to shine came in Games 6 and 7, in which he only allowed two goals on 96 shots.The Canadiens' defeat of the Capitals was very impressive and arguably one of the most shocking in NHL history. 

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