Two days ago, we hit the two-month mark since the Boston Bruins defeated the heavily favoured Vancouver Canucks to capture their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Some call it an upset—others, a collapse.
Whichever way you choose to slice it, here are my top five picks for the best NHL teams that just couldn't cut it in the postseason.
In 1990-91, the Jeremy Roenick-led Chicago Blackhawks dominated the NHL regular season with 49 wins, 106 points and Ed Belfour's league-low 211 goals against. Needless to say, they seemed set to do serious damage in the playoffs, hoping to end their then 30-year Cup drought.
Instead, they would lose in the first round to the Minnesota North Stars (the eventual Conference champions), who finished an astounding 38 points behind Chicago in the regular season. However, the Hawks would manage to make the Finals the next season with a much weaker record.
Year after year, the San Jose Sharks manage to put up impressive 100-plus point seasons only to fall short in the playoffs. The 2008-09 season may be the cherry atop the Sharks' cake of postseason disappointment: Joe Thornton and company won a team record and Presidents' Trophy-clinching 53 games for a total of 117 points. They were practically unstoppable at home, going 32-4-4 at the Shark Tank. They won their division by 26 points.
Surely they were bound to be champions, were they not? Well, not so fast: The Anaheim Ducks ousted them in the first round, largely due to Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo's combined five points in the six-game series.
Ah, yes. As a Canucks fan, seeing this image still stings months later. The 2010-11 season was the best in Canucks' history, as they went on an absolute tear: finishing the year with a 54-19-9 record and winning the Presidents' Trophy, Jennings Trophy, and Art Ross Trophy along the way.
Along with the fact that it was the team's 40th season, there was a special feeling to the whole thing—a feeling that this was their year. After a tough seven-game set against the Blackhawks that saw Vancouver nearly blow a 3-0 lead, they ultimately cruised into the finals against the underdog Boston Bruins.
After taking the opening pair at home, the Canucks put on a disappearing act in Boston, losing the three road games by a combined score of 17-3. They ultimately dropped the decisive seventh game on home ice.
In 1996 the Detroit Red Wings cruised to their second consecutive Presidents' Trophy with an incredible 62-13-7 record, breaking the '77 Canadiens' mark for wins in a season. Chris Osgood and Mike Vernon won the William M. Jennings Trophy, Sergei Fedorov won the Selke, and Scotty Bowman received his second Jack Adams Award (oddly enough, his first was with the '77 Habs).
For such a dominant regular season, the Wings seemed poised to win their first Stanley Cup since 1955. After Steve Yzerman's legendary overtime goal in Game 7 of the West semifinal put Detroit past the Blues, they went on to face Patrick Roy and the fledgling Colorado Avalanche in the West final.
The Red Wings would fall to Colorado in six games, who would go on to win their first-ever Stanley Cup.
Powered by the legendary Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and Johnny Bucyk, the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972, but it was the season in-between where the B's did the most damage. Orr, Bucyk and Esposito combined for 407 points—Espo scored a league-record 76 goals and Orr was an extraordinary plus-124—en route to a 57-14-7 record.
However, they fell to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round—their third defeat at the hands of the Habs in four years.