Top 10 NHL Playoff Series of the Last 10 Years
Once a year the most exciting tournament in sports comes around, and that time is now. Every year, 16 of the best teams in the league duel it out for one of the most coveted trophies in all of sports.
Every season there are double- and triple-overtime thrillers, there are upsets, there is bloodshed and tears, but there is also the most exciting experience you could imagine.
Fans pull together to cheer on their team, sold-out stadiums, seas of red, white, and every colour under the sun, towels, rats, octopi, whatever you can imagine are used to rev up the home team, and boy does it ever create an amazing atmosphere.
The experience is second to none, and nothing beats the thrill of winning the Cup.
The first Stanley Cup of the new decade will be awarded soon, and it seems only proper to look back at the most memorable series of the last 10 years.
10. Anaheim Ducks vs. Ottawa Senators: 2006-07
As an Ottawa Senators fan this pick may seem a little selfish, but this series has been one of the more memorable series over the past decade.
While the series proved to be rather short (five games), it still had its moments. The Ottawa Senators, having made the finals for the first time in modern history, had an uphill battle to climb, and it proved to be too steep.
Daniel Alfredsson provided one of the more memorable moments, when he directed a slap shot at Anaheim Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer at the end of the second period in Game 4.
While the Senators managed to keep games close they couldn’t seem to get things together. Going down three games to one, they went into Anaheim with everything on the line and collapsed. Chris Phillips scored one of the more infamous goals of all time, scoring on his own net which seemingly put the game out of reach.
The Anaheim Ducks went on to take the game, and their first-ever Stanley Cup Championship. This was the last time that a Canadian team has made the Finals.
9. Dallas Stars vs. San Jose Sharks: 2007-08
This may have been the closest six-game series on record. The Stars went into the quarterfinal series as the underdog, and San Jose really had something to prove.
The Stars went into the Shark tank for Game 1 realizing that all the pressure was on the Sharks to perform, and they could just go about their business, and that’s what they did. The Stars went down early in the second, but bounced back on the help of goals by Mike Modano and Brenden Morrow. In the third with fewer than four minutes remaining Jonathan Cheechoo tied the game up, and sent it to OT. However early in the OT, the first star of the game Brenden Morrow slid one past Nabokov, and put Dallas up one game to nothing.
After winning Game 1 the Stars went into game two with a lot more confidence. The Stars managed to take the only game not decided by one goal, by a score of 5-2, and went back to Dallas with a two-game lead.
The third game of the series proved to be a little more challenging as the Sharks held the lead for most of the game, but at the start of the third Dallas tied the game, and sent the series to its second overtime game. With nearly the same amount of time on the clock as Game 1, Mattias Norstrom put the Stars up three to nil in the best of seven series.
The Sharks dug themselves a deep hole, but they started to climb out, the Sharks claimed Game 4 2-1, and Game 5 3-2 in the series' third overtime affair.
This set up one of the most exciting games in recent memory.
The Stars back in Dallas looked to close out the series at home. The Stars opened the scoring in the second period, and looked like they were going to hold strong until Ryan Clowe tied the game up in the third. Three overtime periods passed, until none other than Brenden Morrow deflects a shot past Nabokov in the fourth OT to win the game and series for the Dallas Stars. The game was the sixth longest in NHL history, and was the fourth overtime in six games for the series.
While it was only six games it was certainly memorable.
8. Detroit Red Wings vs. Carolina Hurricanes: 2001-02
The 2002 Stanley Cup Championship was a fairly quick series, but it still provided some exciting moments.
The Carolina Hurricanes went into the series as the underdogs. At first they seemed to relish that fact as they stormed out, fought hard, and beat the Wings at Joe Louis by way of a 3-2 OT victory.
The Red Wings took that loss, and turned it around on home ice, and took the second game 3-1, to tie the series at a game a piece.
The third game proved to be the most exciting. Tied at two the Hurricanes and Red Wings went into the third overtime period where with only a quarter of a period left, Igor Larionov scored the winner for the Red Wings, taking home ice advantage back, and a 2-1 series lead.
The Hurricanes could not recover from that devastating loss, and lost the last two games of the series, and the Detroit Red Wings won their first of two Cups that decade.
What really makes this series memorable is that this was the last time we saw such greats as: Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, and Igor Larionov hoist the cup.
7. Carolina Hurricanes vs. New Jersey Devils: 2008-09
This series was an instant classic for all Carolina Hurricanes fans. The Eastern Conference quarterfinals proved to be one of many exciting series in 08/09.
The Devils went in as the third seed, finishing nine points ahead of the sixth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes. The Devils were considered the favourites, and likely never suspected the Hurricanes to prove as tough as they were.
After the first game the Devils were in the driver seat, as they handled the Canes fairly easily, and walked away with a 4-1 victory. However, the second game offered up a different story. The Hurricanes went into Newark and stole Game 2 in overtime by a score of 2-1.
The third game the Devils nabbed home ice back, with another thrilling overtime victory. That set up one of the most exciting and controversial moments of the playoffs.
Going into the final minute of Game 4 the Devils and Hurricanes were tied at three. The Hurricanes had pressure in the zone, and with less then a second on the clock the Hurricanes fired a shot past Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur. The play went to extensive review, and it was determined that the puck crossed the line with only 0.2 seconds left to play. The play was controversial as it seemed that Marty had been interfered with on the play, but was never called. Hurricanes took Game 4, 4-3.
The next two games were split with shutouts for both teams which set up an intense Game 7. With less than two minutes to go and the Hurricanes down 3-2 Jussi Jokinen tied the game up at three, which would have sent Game 7 to OT, but mere seconds later Eric Staal sealed the deal with the game-winner.
It took less then 90 seconds for the Devils' season to unravel before them.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators: 2001-02
The battle of Ontario could quite possibly be the best rivalry in the NHL. Prior to the lockout is when the rivalry really sizzled as the two teams met frequently in the postseason. The best of those matchups could quite possibly be the duel in the 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Leafs finished only six points ahead of the Senators, and went into the series with home ice advantage.
Ottawa went into Toronto with a lot of confidence. They were the underdogs and nothing was going to stop them. On the help of Daniel Alfredsson and Martin Havlat the Senators stormed through the game, and won the most lopsided affair 5-0.
The Leafs and Sens battled it out in a seesaw affair that went the distance. Toronto managed to escape elimination at the Corel Centre in Game 6, and went back to the ACC hungry to win, and that’s exactly what they did. The Senators could not find a rhythm and fell short, 3-0.
The battle between Toronto and Ottawa will never die, and for all hockey fans we hope they will meet again soon.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Calgary Flames: 2003-04
Everybody loves a Game 7, and everyone especially loves a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals, and that’s exactly what happened with Calgary and Tampa. Calgary represented Canada’s best shot at a Cup since 1993.
Tampa Bay had home ice advantage in the series going in, but after a 4-1 stomp by the Calgary Flames, that advantage had quickly switched over. Tampa managed to close out its home stand and tie the series heading into Calgary by the very same core they were beat by the game before.
Calgary seemed to take charge on home ice as they shutout the Lightning in the first game at the Saddledome. However, Tampa had other plans in Game 4, where Calgary could have taken complete control of the series the Lightning snuck out a 1-0 lead to claim home ice back.
Games 5 and 6 proved to be the most exciting. Both heading to OT, and both seeing the road team win, including a 3-2 2OT victory by Tampa Bay that would have won the Cup for Calgary.
This forced a Game 7 for the ages. The teams duked it out, and on the back of Ruslan Fedotenko, the Tampa Bay Lightning won their first Stanley Cup Championship.
4. Carolina Hurricanes vs. Edmonton Oilers: 2005-06
The Edmonton Oilers, while not winning the Cup, could be one of the best stories of the modern era NHL. The Edmonton Oilers were the eighth-seeded team going into the playoffs, and managed to dispatch the top-seeded Red Wings, the fifth-seeded San Jose Sharks, and the sixth-seeded Anaheim Ducks. This is the first time since the current playoff format was introduced in 1994 that the lowest seeded team had made the finals.
The Edmonton Oilers were certainly no pushovers, and proved a tough challenge in game one when they fought hard, but came up just short in a 5-4 win for the Hurricanes. However the second game was no contest as Carolina managed to trounce the Oilers by a score of 5-0.
The Oilers looked to be in trouble after splitting the series in Edmonton and falling down 3-1 in the series.
This seemed to wake them up. The Oilers took Game 5 in OT in Carolina to force a Game 6 back in Oil country. The Oilers thrived on the raucous Edmonton faithful and beat the Hurricanes by a 4-0 margin.
This set up a second consecutive Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals. The Hurricanes fought hard and eventually came away with a hard-fought victory. This series really brought faith back in the Carolina organization, and really put Cam Ward on the map. The rookie goaltender replaced Martin Gerber early and ran with it. Ward was the Conn Smythe winner.
While the Oil didn’t win they certainly put up a memorable fight.
image courtesy: redmile.blogspot.com
3. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals: 2008-09
This is the matchup that every hockey fan wanted to see. Washington and Pittsburgh, Crosby and Ovechkin meet finally in the playoffs, and it did not disappoint.
The Capitals had been favoured to win the series. But like many times before the Penguins did not see it the same way.
Game 1 of the series really set the tone to what kind of affair it was going to be, as Washington took a close one on home ice by a score of 3-2. Game 2 in Washington may have been one of the most interesting and exciting playoff games in recent memory. While Washington eventually won the game, it took dueling hat tricks from Crosby and Ovechkin to finally get to a 4-3 victory for the Caps.
Pittsburgh went back to Mellon down two games to none, but this wasn’t going to put them down. Game 3 was another nail biter as the Pens sneaked out a 3-2 OT victory to save them from going down 3-0. They played much better the night after as they tied the series by a 5-3 score.
Two OT games would eventually set the stage for a 6-2 drubbing of the Capitals to put the Penguins in the final.
No one will veer forget this epic series, and many are looking forward to a rematch this year.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Detroit Red Wings: 2008-09
It took six games for the Detroit Red Wings to dispatch of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the finals in 2008. This time around it was a whole different story.
This series was very much a homers series.
The Red Wings at Joe Louis proved to be a good challenge for the Penguins, as they fell short in the first two by consecutive 3-1 losses.
However, the same challenge was presented to Detroit in Pittsburgh. The Penguins beat the Red Wings in Pittsburgh by consecutive 4-2 scores.
Detroit continued home ice success, and won in major fashion by the series most lopsided score of 5-0. That set up a brilliant Game 6 in Pittsburgh. The Penguins and Detroit matched wits in a game that finally went to the home team once again by way of a 2-1 score.
That set up Game 7, and the only game won by the road team. The Penguins on heroics by Maxime Talbot and Marc-Andre Fleury took down the mighty Wings by another 2-1 score.
This is the first of likely many times that Malkin and Crosby will hold the cup.
Colorado Avalanche vs. New Jersey Devils 00/01
This series provided one of the better story lines of the last decade. Ray Bourque, after playing 22 seasons with the Boston Bruins, had asked for a trade so that he could have a shot at a Stanley Cup in his final season. The Bruins accepted his wish and shipped him out to the Mile High City. This was the best thing that ever happened to him.
The Colorado Avalanche steamrolled through the competition en route to the Stanley Cup Finals, and had only one last wall to climb.
The New Jersey Devils.
The Avalanche and Devils locked in a heated duel split the first four games. Then New Jersey took the lead in a poor outing for the Avs by a score of 4-1 at the Pepsi Center.
The series went back to New Jersey, things were looking bad, but the Avalanche came out of the gate strong, and showed the Devils they won’t go down quietly. The Avalanche took Game 6, and forced a game seven back on home ice.
Thus setting up an amazing moment. The Avalanche beat the Devils in Game 7, and one of the greatest players to play the game finally got his first Stanley Cup in his last season in the league.