In the midst of our current Conference Finals Series, let's take a look back at some of the most memorable moments of the top five Conference Finals series of the past five seasons.
The all Pennsylvania Eastern Conference Final may have only gone five games, but I really didn't think the Flyers were ever out of it until that fifth game was over, and I speculate that it would have been much closer had Philly D-men Kimmo Timmonen not suffered a blot and Braydon Cobrun not needed 50 stitches after taking a puck to the face.
This was the first playoff run for young stars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, and they just happened to run up against the Pittsburgh juggernaut that would win the Cup in the following year.
No one expected Philadelphia to make it that far in 2008, and no one expected them to be there again today in 2010. Now, with a stronger defensive corps and more experienced forwards, can they take the next step to the Stanley Cup Finals?
This five-game series is about as close as we could come to seeing a bottom two seed conference final until it actually came to fruition this season with the No. 7 Philadelphia Flyers and the No. 8 Montreal Canadiens.
What did occur in 2006 however was every bottom seed knocking off each and every top seed in the first round of the playoffs. On the flip side, in the East every bottom seed lost to their respective top seeds. It was a remarkable occurrence that I speculate we'll never see again.
One specific storyline from this series is particularly interesting.
Chris Pronger, now with the Philadelphia Flyers, would join the Anaheim Ducks in the following season after coming up short in the Stanley Cup Finals in this year. The Ducks would win the could for the first time in franchise history upon Pronger's arrival in 2007.
We'll see if Pronger can bring the same type of fortune to the Philadelphia Flyers in his first year there. They currently hold a 2-0 series lead over the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Again, another series that only lasted five games and was much closer than it seemed.
This series had it all, from highlight reel goals (seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zs2XiyLYJOo) to hits (pictured here) which knocked Martin Havlat all the way to Minneapolis.
The Red Wings obviously proved to be too much to handle for the young Blackhawks, but it was clear that this would not be the last we would see from the talented youth in Chicago, as is evident this year with the Hawks currently leading the Sharks 2-0 in their conference finals matchup.
In 2008, the Dallas Stars faced what I believe to be the toughest road to the Cup of any team in the last five seasons.
In the first round they squared off with defending champion Anaheim Ducks, and both teams were considered by many to be favorites for making a run at the Cup in 2008.
They squeaked by the Ducks in six hard-fought contests and moved on to battle the San Jose Sharks, another highly-touted squad that was sure to make waves in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in '08.
This was another very physical series, and the defensive minded Stars, led by Marty Turco in goal, held off the attack of the Sharks in another six-game series.
But two main obstacles would give the Red Wings the first three games of the 2008 Western Conference Finals: fatigue and the Detroit's scoring depth. The Stars would regain their footing and win the next two to force a game six, but the eventual Stanley Cup winners would prove too much to handle.
This series was notable for marking perhaps the best postseason performance of Marty Turco, who was arguably the main reason the Stars made it to the WCF.
With Turco's future uncertain, would this be his last claim to fame, or will free agency send him to another Cup contender for another run at it? Only time will tell.
We all love a Game Seven. Just look at last year's Stanley Cup Finals Game Seven, something hockey fans will remember for years to come.
It's no co-incidence that the only NHL conference finals series of the last five years to go seven games was the most exciting.
During the Carolina Hurricanes 2006 Stanley Cup run, they took it to the final game of the series to get to those finals, barely edging out the Buffalo Sabres 4-2. This game after back-to-back OT dramas in Game Five and Six with each team taking one of those games.
Buffalo has yet to come as close to the Stanley Cup Finals as they did here, and Carolina made it back in 2008 only to get swept by the Pens.
It would also set up the first Stanley Cup for 35 year old Rod Brind'Amour, who motivated his teammates by saying, "I'm an old guy, and I won't get a lot more kicks at this can," before that Game Seven.
It took Brind'Amour 140 playoff battles before hoisting the Stanley Cup, and as fans we always find the longest road the most intriguing, as with Ray Bourque in 2001.
Will we be blessed with a seven game conference finals series in 2010? The way things are currently going, it doesn't look that way, but let us not forget that the odds have been against the Canadiens since they entered the playoffs as the eighth seed, yet here they are, and that the San Jose Sharks have perhaps the most talented scoring line in the NHL.
If we have learned nothing else from this list, it's that in the playoffs, anything can happen.