The 10 Greatest NHL Playoff Series Post-Lockout

Adam Rickert@adam_rickertAnalyst IIMarch 26, 2011

The 10 Greatest NHL Playoff Series Post-Lockout

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    There was an empty feeling in the spring of 2005.

    Baseball had started and the NBA playoffs were under way, but for the first time since 1919 there was no pursuit for the most prized trophy in sports: the Stanley Cup.

    Fortunately, the NHL returned for the 2005-2006 season, and with it returned two months of excitement every April-June.

    This slideshow will examine the ten greatest playoff series since the lockout.

10. 2010 Stanley Cup Final: Blackhawks Vs. Flyers

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    The way this series ended could have been one of the most exciting finishes to a series in history. Not only was Patrick Kane's goal in Game 6, which came 4:06 into overtime, one of the most confusing moments to watch in sports history, it was one of the most iconic moments to watch in sports history.

    That one goal ended 49 years of frustration for hockey fans in Chicago, brought a Stanley Cup to an Original 6 team besides Detroit for the first time since Montreal did so in 1993, and it gave Marian Hossa his first Stanley Cup even though he had been in the Final for three straight years with three different teams.

    Other than Kane's goal, the series itself was very action packed. The Blackhawks took a commanding 2-0 series lead with two home wins only to relinquish it with two straight losses in Philadelphia. Game 5 was a must-win for both teams, and Chicago made its home crowd happy with a 7-4 thumping of the Flyers.

    Then came Game 6. Chicago led most of the game until Scott Hartnell tied it for the Flyers with exactly three minutes left in the third. Then we all know what happened in overtime.

9. 2009 Eastern Semi-Final: Hurricanes Vs. Bruins

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    This series had a little bit of everything: a dramatic Game 7 overtime finish, the beginning of a new rivalry, controversy and a stunning upset.

    The sixth-seeded Hurricanes were coming off of a dramatic first-round upset of the third-seeded New Jersey Devils when they ran into the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference: the Boston Bruins. After Boston took Game 1 at home, the 'Canes fought back to win three in a row and take a commanding 3-1 series lead.

    Game 5 in Boston was a 4-0 win by the Bruins to keep the series alive, but it will be remembered for Hurricane Scott Walker's sucker punch of Aaron Ward near the end of the third period. This not only created bad blood between the two teams, but inspired the Bruins to take Game 6 in Carolina to set up a highly-anticipated Game 7 in Boston.

    In Game 7, Bruins fans were hyped up to see their team try to punch their ticket to the Conference Final; however, that was not the case. Carolina established themselves as giant killers, pulling off the shocking upset by winning Game 7 in overtime. Who scored the goal to end the Boston season? None other than the now-infamous Scott Walker.

8. 2008 Eastern Quarterfinal: Canadiens Vs. Bruins

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    It was a matchup between the No. 1 and No. 8 seeds with the favorite winning the series. What was incredible was that the Bruins took their rival Canadiens seven games.

    This could arguably be the most historic rivalry in hockey, and this series only added to its significance.

    After winning three of the first four games, Montreal looked like they had the series all but locked up heading home for Game 5. Boston, however, had other plans. They silenced the Montreal crowd in Game 5 with a 5-1 road victory to keep their season alive. The Bruins returned home for Game 6 inspired to put on a show for their home crowd, and that they did with a 5-4 victory to force Game 7.

    In Game 7, however, the Habs proved their dominance of Boston with a decisive 5-0 shutout win at home to clinch the series.

7. 2006 Stanley Cup Final: Hurricanes Vs. Oilers

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    The first year back from the lockout ended with a terrific series between two teams with historic runs. The Edmonton Oilers had barely made the playoffs as a No. 8 seed, and had shocked the President's Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings in the first round.

    They went on to pull off two more upsets against San Jose and Anaheim, respectively, before facing Carolina in the Final. The Hurricanes were the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, and were poised to bring the Cup to North Carolina for the first time in history.

    The history between these teams is what made them so different: Edmonton had won five Stanley Cups in seven seasons from 1984-1990 to establish itself as a top-tier Canadian team, yet it had struggled with making the playoffs in recent years. Carolina, on the other hand, had not even reached its tenth season, and it was already making its second trip to the Stanley Cup Final after losing to Detroit in 2002.

    Carolina won the first three of four, starting with two five-goal offensive explosions in Games 1 and 2, but they relinquished the opportunity to win the Cup in overtime in Game 5 as Edmonton pulled within one game and sent the series back home to Oil Country for Game 6. The Oilers did not disappoint their fans, dominating the Hurricanes in a 4-0 win to force Game 7. In Game 7, Carolina brought the Cup home for the first time with a thrilling 3-1 victory, and veteran captain Rod Brind'Amour won his first and only Stanley Cup.

6. 2010 Eastern Quarterfinal: Canadiens Vs. Capitals

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    This series was supposed to be one of the most predictable in the entire 2010 playoffs.

    Fans assumed the Caps would easily beat Montreal in four or five games, steamroll past the second round, and meet Pittsburgh in the Conference Final. That's exactly what it looked like was going to happen after Washington won three of the first four games and was going back home to close out the series in Game 5.

    It turned out to be quite the opposite.

    Canadien goalie Jaroslav Halak played at the top of his game for Games 5, 6 and 7, allowing only one goal in each game and capping one of the most incredible comebacks and upsets of all time.

5. 2009 Eastern Semi-Final: Penguins Vs. Capitals

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    The NHL's most publicized rivals since the lockout faced off for the first time since the lockout. Malkin vs. Semin, Gonchar vs. Green...and, oh yeah, Crosby vs. Ovechkin.

    The home teams won the first four games of the series, including a Game 2 where superstars Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby both scored hat tricks. The two teams split Games 5 and 6, which were both overtime contests won by the away team. Due to the intensity of the first six games, fans were expecting a climactic Game 7 in Washington.

    Unfortunately, Game 7 did not prove to be as close as some hoped. The visiting Penguins beat up on the Caps with a decisive 6-2 victory, sending them to the third round and eventually their first Stanley Cup since 1992.

4. 2009 Stanley Cup Final: Penguins Vs. Red Wings

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    For the first time in thirty years, the same two teams met in the Stanley Cup Final. Unfortunately for Marian Hossa, his team had lost for the second consecutive meeting.

    The Penguins exacted revenge on the Red Wings and Hossa, who had left Pittsburgh for Detroit saying that he thought he had the best chance at winning the Cup playing for Detroit.

    The Wings took a 2-0 series lead only to let it evaporate as the Penguins won the next two games to tie the series. Game 5 at The Joe featured complete dominance of the Red Wings over the Penguins, storming out to a 5-0 victory at home and putting themselves one win away from back-to-back Stanley Cups.

    That would never happen.

    Detroit would put up two lackluster performances in Games 6 and 7 with consecutive 2-1 losses and the Penguins won the 2009 Stanley Cup, with Max Talbot scoring both Penguin goals in Game 7 in Detroit.

3. 2008 Stanley Cup Final: Red Wings Vs. Penguins

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    While some may disagree and say the 2009 Final was more exciting than the 2008 matchup, I beg to differ.

    The series started off with two shutouts from Chris Osgood to put the Wings up 2-0 in the series, but the Penguins fought back to win a thrilling Game 3 at home and cut the deficit to one game. The Red Wings won a crucial Game 4 on the road, and returned back to Hockeytown to try to win the Cup at home in Game 5.

    Game 5 may have been the single most exciting playoff game since the lockout. After the Penguins took an early 2-0 lead, the Red Wings stormed back to score three straight and take a 3-2 lead with just minutes left in the third. However, with under a minute left, the Penguins tied the game and sent it to overtime.

    Every second of the first and second overtimes was action-packed, but there was still no scoring. Before the third overtime, Penguins winger Petr Sykora said that he would win the game. In a storybook finish, Sykora put the game winning shot past Chris Osgood to win Game 5 and send the series back to Pittsburgh.

    Game 6 was also a tight battle, but resulted in a 3-2 Red Wings victory despite a last-second charge by Pittsburgh. It was the Red Wings' fourth Cup in eleven years.

2. 2009 Eastern Quarterfinal: Hurricanes Vs. Devils

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    This may have been the tightest back-and-forth series I have seen in a long, long time. These two had met previously in the playoffs several times, and this set up one of the most intense first round battles in recent history.

    With New Jersey leading the series 2-1, Game 4 in Carolina seemed destined for overtime. However, with 0.2 seconds left on the clock, Carolina potted the game winner past Martin Brodeur to tie the series at two games apiece.

    A goaltending battle in Game 5 resulted in a 1-0 Devil victory, sending the series to Carolina for Game 6. Another shutout was recorded in Game 6, but the game was more one-sided as the 'Canes put four goals past Brodeur while Cam Ward was perfect.

    Game 7. The New Jersey crowd was eager to see their team win the series and avoid another early playoff upset. It seemed like that would be the case as the Devils led the game 3-2 with a minute and a half left in the third. Suddenly, the game took an unexpected turn as the Devils' season unfolded right before their eyes.

    Carolina scored two goals in the last minute and a half to tie the game at three and ultimately win the game and the series 4-3, shocking the New Jersey fans and team.

1. 2010 Eastern Semi-Final: Flyers Vs. Bruins

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    Impossible comebacks don't happen very often. In fact, they had only happened two times in hockey before the spring of 2010.

    After they both pulled off first round upsets, the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers met in the second round in a rematch of the Winter Classic, which Boston won 2-1 in overtime. Boston also looked like a sure thing to win the series, as they took the first three games of the series and had a stranglehold on the Flyers. Game 4 went to overtime, and Philly knew that if they gave up the next goal, they would be swept and their season would be over. That would not happen. The Flyers scored the overtime winner to keep them in the series.

    Still, Boston looked like a lock to win, as they headed home for Game 5 with a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. However, they were embarrassed in front of their home fans and suffered a 4-0 loss to send the series back to Philadelphia. In Philadelphia for Game 6, the Broad Street Bullies continued the magic with a 2-1 win to force Game 7 in Boston.

    Ironically, Boston took a 3-0 lead on the Flyers in Game 7, just like the series. It seemed as if the Bruins would nearly slip away and avoid the shocking upset; however, the Flyers fought back. They scored four consecutive goals to win their fourth consecutive game in the series, and pulled off potentially the greatest comeback of all time.