In that time, we have seen these series take on a life of their own. Bad blood, heroics and comebacks that are still talked about today shape the excitement that only comes from a final showdown for the richest prize in hockey.
Here are the top 10 series that needed the seventh and deciding game to crown a champion.
Can anyone argue that this series has been one of the hardest to predict as time went by? There were a lot of experts suggesting that Boston had no chance of winning. Then Game 3 happened.
There were the close affairs in Vancouver, and then when the Finals moved to Boston, goaltender Roberto Luongo looked shaken. An 8-1 Game 3 victory and then a 4-0 win in Game 4 woke the Bruins from hibernation, and we had ourselves a series.
Game 5 was more of the same as we saw in Games 1 and 2—a close game that was decided on a timely third period tally by a deep Canucks team.
In Game 6, Luongo was chased from the net after the third goal was scored. Backup Cory Schneider did the best he could, but the damage was already done. That third goal proved to be the winner in a 5-2 final.
Game 7 is Wednesday, and although signs point to Vancouver winning (just like every home game in this Final), you cannot count out the Bruins. Remember, the games in Vancouver were close: Two of them had 1-0 final scores, and the other was a quick OT finish.
This series is still up for grabs and both teams are hungry to win it all. For Boston, a Cup drought that spans 39 years is on the line. For Vancouver, its first Cup in franchise history, the first Cup for Canada since Montreal in 1993 and a suddenly famous Canadian Olympic/Stanley Cup omen will be decided.
Something has to give. Tune in Wednesday night to find out who becomes the 2011 Stanley Cup champions!
P.S. Win or lose, Tim Thomas is my pick for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
It began a streak of three straight years that a Canadian team made the Stanley Cup Final (minus the 2005 lockout).
The sixth-seeded Calgary Flames went on a Cinderella run that saw their goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff backstop them past the Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks en route to the Final. What was more remarkable was that those three teams in question were the division champions of the Western Conference.
Calgary had its work cut out for it as it faced the Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
It was a back and forth affair, as no team seemed to carry momentum to the next game. Calgary would win Games 1, 3 and 5 before going to Game 7. However, this series was almost decided in six games.
A controversial call by the referees in Game 6 to not review a play by Martin Gelinas arguably cost the Flames the Cup that year. The play showed Lightning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin making a kick save on Gelinas in the third period.
Upon closer review, a camera angle showed the puck crossing the line before Khabibulin kicked the puck out. If called, this could have been the Cup-clinching goal for the Flames and what could have sealed a fantastic playoff for Gelinas (he scored the series-clinching goals in all three of the Flames' playoff series in 2004)...but it was not meant to be.
Martin St. Louis scored in overtime to bring on a deciding Game 7.
In Game 7, Ruslan Fedotenko came out to play, and did he ever. He scored the two goals needed for the Lightning to win the Stanley Cup by a score of 2-1.
Brad Richards won the Conn Smythe as the playoff points leader, and Dave Andreychuk won his first and only Cup after 22 years in the NHL, just like a certain Hall of Famer did three years prior—but we will talk about that later.
This would be the final game before labour disputes shut down the 2004-05 NHL season.
Gordie Howe played a key role in Detroit's '55 Cup win.
In the "Original Six" era, it was much easier to reach the Final for teams.
Detroit got past Toronto in a clean 4-0 sweep to make a Finals appearance, while the Canadiens only needed five games to get past the Boston Bruins for their shot at the Cup.
This was the first series to have all home teams win their games, and that meant bad news for Habs fans. With so much emphasis on home-ice advantage, this would only be the first of three times (four if Vancouver wins this year) that the home team has won all seven games of a Cup Final. The other two times didn't make this list. They were the 1965 Cup Final, when Montreal beat Chicago, and in 2003, when New Jersey overcame the surprising Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Detroit would win its fourth Cup in six seasons, and this also marked the final time Detroit legend Terry Sawchuk won a Cup with the Wings. He would win one more Cup with the Leafs in 1967 before passing away three years later.
Another note on this series: It was the last time Detroit would win a Stanley Cup before Steve Yzerman would lead the 1997 team to the promised land once again.
The Leafs almost gave it all away to the Detroit Red Wings in 1945.
The Leafs shut out the Red Wings in three straight games and were on the verge of winning the Cup at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Detroit wasn't done yet.
The Red Wings stormed back with a 5-3 Game 4 win.
This would be followed by two straight Detroit shutout victories in Game 5 and Game 6 (2-0 and 1-0 in OT, respectively) to force the Game 7 thriller in Detroit.
With the Red Wings having home ice advantage and all the momentum, it seemed academic that Detroit would pull off an epic comeback from 3-0 to win it all, something Toronto did to it only three years earlier (more on that series coming up).
In Game 7, the Leafs looked strong on the road and in a low-scoring affair won the Cup on the road (the first team to do so) by a score of 2-1.
This series was a combination of the 1955 and 1945 Finals. Every home team won its game, and it led to an exciting Game 7, where that streak was broken and for the second time in NHL history a road team won the Stanley Cup in Game 7.
The team in question is the Montreal Canadiens, as they beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 to win their third Cup in four years.
Henri Richard scored the winning goal at 2:34 of the third period. It was also the last Finals appearance for Jean Beliveau.
A battle of the titans and what is considered one of the greatest series ever played, the Edmonton Oilers overcame a disappointing end to the 1986 playoffs and with Wayne Gretzky at the helm won their third Cup in four years.
With Game 5 in Edmonton and the Oilers poised to win the Cup, the Philadelphia Flyers stormed to two straight victories to force a deciding Game 7.
Jari Kurri scored the Cup clincher in the second period, and the Oilers took the game 3-1.
The Oilers would win the 1988 Stanley Cup as well, the final Cups in the career of Wayne Gretzky.
This also marked an unusual occurrence for the NHL, as normally the Conn Smythe Trophy is presented to a leader on the winning team.
Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall won the trophy, marking only the fourth time the trophy was presented to a player on the losing side. It would happen again in 2003 when Jean-Sebastien Giguere won it as a member of the Cup runner-up Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
This was a personal choice of mine, as this Final was a great memory of my youth.
Raymond Bourque spent his entire career with the Boston Bruins before getting traded to the Avalanche in 2000 in hopes of closing out his career with a Stanley Cup.
He got his wish.
In 2001, Bourque achieved his 22-year journey to the Stanley Cup, but it did not come easily. The Avs faced off against the defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils.
Colorado got off to a fast start, blowing out the Devils 5-0 in Game 1. Games 2, 3, 4 and 5 saw the Devils come within one game of repeating as Cup champs for the first time since Detroit did it in 1997 and 1998.
It was not meant to be.
Destiny was on the side of Colorado.
The Avs came away with a 4-0 blowout in Game 6 to send this series to Game 7.
In that deciding game, Colorado's Alex Tanguay had a big game, scoring two goals, including the Cup clincher in the second period. With it, he helped a legend realize his dream, as the Avs won Game 7 by a score of 3-1. Highlights of that game are featured in the video for this slide.
Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy would win his third Conn Smythe Trophy, the only player to do so, and captain Joe Sakic handed the Cup to Bourque.
The call in the dying seconds of the game still sends shivers down my spine, growing up a Ray Bourque fan. That statement echoed when he finally lifted "hockey's holy grail" over his head.
"The Colorado Avalanche have won the Stanley Cup! Raymond Bourque, a dream has come true!"
This Final is ranked high due to how big this series was building up to be. Hockey's poster child Sidney Crosby led the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Final against the previous year's Cup champion, the Detroit Red Wings.
This was the second consecutive year these two teams met for the Stanley Cup, and the young Penguins squad was looking for redemption.
The Penguins got by the Philadelphia Flyers in Round 1. In Round 2, it was Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in a series still talked about today. We all remember their Game 2 heroics with dueling hat tricks; Washington came out on top 4-3, Dave Steckel providing the only other tally.
The Penguins would overcome that series and go on to beat the Carolina Hurricanes to advance to the Final.
Detroit beat out the Columbus Blue Jackets, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks to get to the Final.
Just like 2008, both teams fought valiantly, but unlike 2008, when Detroit won Game 6 to claim its fourth Cup since 1997, this series was ultimately decided in seven games.
In that Game 7, it came down to the final seconds. With Pittsburgh up 2-1 thanks to a two-goal night by Max Talbot and a faceoff to the right of Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury, here was the call on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada by Jim Hughson:
"Scrambled draw, comes to the point, Rafalski shoots, knocked down and a mad scramble. Lidstrom shoots and a tremendous save by Fleury! They've done it! The Penguins have done it! Sidney Crosby and the Penguins have won the Stanley Cup!"
Crosby became the youngest captain to ever hoist the Stanley Cup.
At the time, Game 7 was the most watched CBC program of all time. Not bad for a network that has been running for over half a century.
The series was one for the ages. Does anyone remember Mark Messier guaranteeing the win and then doing the work himself with a hat trick against the Devils? It was definitely a highlight of that playoff year. Canuck fans also remember the penalty shot in Game 4 by Pavel Bure that Mike Richter stopped; some say it shifted the series.
Anyway, the Canucks upset the Calgary Flames, Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs to advance to the Final.
The Rangers beat the New York Islanders, Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils to advance to the Final.
The Canucks won Game 1 in OT 3-2 thanks to Greg Adams. New York would win three straight, and Game 5 was set at Madison Square Garden.
With the Cup in the building, Game 5 was a classic. Vancouver came out to a 3-0 lead in the third, and the Rangers came back. Once the score was 3-3, the light went on at the Vancouver bench. Three goals later and the Canucks had the momentum going into Game 6 with a 6-3 victory.
Game 6 would go to Vancouver to set up a clash of epic proportions at MSG for Game 7.
Mark Messier would be the Game 7 hero, as the Rangers would win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.
This also marked the last time the Canucks made a run to the Cup until this season.
Every story has a beginning.
This was the first time a Stanley Cup Final was decided in seven games, and what a series it turned out to be.
It was the first time in professional sports history that a team came back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
Who would have thought the Stanley Cup would be on the line? The Red Wings outscored the Leafs 12-6 in the first three games and were on the verge of closing out the series in Game 4, up 3-0.
The Leafs came back and won Game 4 by a 4-3 final.
Game 5 emphatically showed that the Leafs weren't going down without a fight, as they won 9-3.
In Game 6, the Leafs shut out the Wings 3-0, and to wrap it all up, the Leafs won Game 7 3-1 to win their first Cup in 10 years.
No other team has performed the feat to win a championship, although the 1976 Islanders (second round vs. Penguins) and 2010 Flyers (second round vs. Bruins) would do the same in earlier rounds. The 1975 Islanders went on to lose to the Flyers the following round, while the 2010 Flyers would advance to the Cup Final only to lose to the Chicago Blackhawks.