LA Kings and the 10 Most Unlikely Stanley Cup Champions of All Time

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IJune 12, 2012

LA Kings and the 10 Most Unlikely Stanley Cup Champions of All Time

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    The Los Angeles Kings just won the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 45-year history. In the process, they became the first-ever eighth seed to win Lord Stanley's Cup since the present playoff format was adopted in 1994.

    Here is a look at the 10 most unlikely Stanley Cup champions of all time—teams that were not expected to find glory but managed to overcome long odds and finish a real Cinderella story. The winners are listed in chronological order and yes, some of them go way back to even before the days of the NHL's Original Six.

1928 New York Rangers

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    The Rangers won the first of their four championships in 1927-28, just their second season in the NHL.

    The team finished just three games over .500 during the regular season, which was still good enough for second place in the American Division.

    What made this cup so unlikely was how the Rangers won the game on April 8, 1928. Goalie Lorne Chabot was injured and unable to continue, and at that time, teams did not carry backup goaltenders.

    The Rangers found an unlikely solution: 44-year-old coach and GM Lester Patrick, who was retired as a player and was not a goalie, donned the pads for his team against the Montreal Maroons.

    Inspired by seeing their coach in net, the Rangers played strong defense in front of him. Patrick gave up only one goal in 46 minutes and the Rangers won 2-1 in overtime. The Rangers used a goalie on loan from the New York Americans for the next three games and went on to capture their first Stanley Cup title.

1938 Chicago Blackhawks

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    No team has ever won a Stanley Cup with a lower regular-season winning percentage than the 1938 Chicago Blackhawks.

    Chicago barely qualified for the playoffs after finishing the regular season with a rather unimpressive 14-25-9 record. They even had a minus-42 goal differential in just 48 regular season games.

    In the playoffs, the Blackhawks got hot at the right time. They ousted both the Canadiens and the New York Americans in deciding Game 3 overtimes before taking on the Maple Leafs in the final.

    In Game 1, goalie Mike Karakas was injured and the Hawks found minor leaguer Alfie Moore tending bar in Toronto before signing him to play. Moore won the game but was ruled ineligible for further play by league president Clarance Campbell. The Hawks lost Game 2 behind another replacement goalie and the series was tied 1-1.

    Karakas returned for Game 3 with a special steel-capped boot to protect his broken big toe and led the Blackhawks to a pair of wins to close out the series in four games and give Chicago its most improbable championship.

1945 Toronto Maple Leafs

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    1945 was a tough year in hockey, with many players unavailable while serving their country in World War II.

    The Maple Leafs finished third that season with a rather pedestrian 24-22-4 record before ousting the first-place Canadiens in six games in the semis and edging the Red Wings in seven games to win the Stanley Cup.

    Goalie Frank McCool shut out the Wings in each of the first three games of the series, but Detroit won the next three games, including two shutouts by their rookie goalie Harry Lumley. Toronto won Game 7 at the Olympia in Detroit 2-1 in what turned out to be McCool's final NHL postseason appearance.

1961 Chicago Blackhawks

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    The Chicago Blackhawks finished in third place, just five game over .500 in 1961, but this was a team with a lot of talent and it found a way to win the Stanley Cup after defeating first-place Montreal in the opening round and Detroit in the final—both in six games.

    This was the first and only Stanley Cup win for Hall of Famers Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Glenn Hall. Other notable players on this team included Pierre Pilote, "Moose" Vasko, Al Arbour, Kenny Wharram and Chico Maki.

1967 Toronto Maple Leafs

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs won Lord Stanley's Cup in 1967 with the oldest roster in NHL history. The Leafs had an average age of 31. Twelve players were over the age of 30 and seven of them more than 35.

    Toronto finished in third place in this, the final year of the Original Six, 19 points behind first-place Chicago, so not much was expected of them come playoff time. But the cagey Leafs downed the Hawks in six games before defeating the Canadiens in six games to capture what remains the final cup win in Leafs history.

    Forty-two year old Johnny Bower played goal for this veteran-laden team which also featured Bob Baun, Tim Horton, Red Kelly, George Armstrong, Frank Mahovlich, Jim Pappin, Ron Ellis and Dave Keon.

1971 Montreal Canadiens

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    The Montreal Canadiens won the title in 1971 in what everybody was sure was the year of the Bruins.

    Boston had won the cup the year before and finished 12 points ahead of any other team in the league while setting all kinds of scoring records, including Bobby Orr's incredible plus-124 rating in a single season.

    The Canadiens decided to play rookie Ken Dryden in goal when they faced the "Big Bad Bruins" in the opening round of the playoffs despite the fact that the former Cornell star had played only six career regular-season games up until that point.

    Dryden came through, leading Montreal past the Bruins in an exciting seven-game opening-round series. After that, the Habs defeated the North Stars in six games before beating the Chicago Blackhawks in seven to capture the Stanley Cup.

    The seventh and deciding game was played at Chicago Stadium, where the Blackhawks led 2-0 before Henri Richards scored both the tying and cup-winning goals for Montreal. It was the 10th career cup win for "The Pocket Rocket," and the 16th Stanley Cup for the Canadiens franchise.

1974 Philadelphia Flyers

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    Yes, the Flyers had the second-best record in the league in 1974 with 112 points, but they shocked everybody when they became the first NHL expansion team to win the Stanley Cup.

    From 1942 until 1967, there were only six teams in the NHL. When expansion finally came, the established teams kept most of their best players, leaving the six new clubs (the Flyers, St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota North Stars, Los Angeles Kings and Oakland Seals) to build teams around career minor leaguers, over-the-hill veterans and young prospects.

    The Flyers shocked everyone beating two Original Six teams on their way to the title. First they upset the New York Rangers in the semifinal in seven before defeating Bobby Orr and the Bruins in six games in the final.

    Bernie Parent's outstanding goaltending was the key to the Flyers' success, along with a brawling, physical style that earned the Flyers the nickname "The Broad Street Bullies."

    Other standouts on the 1974 Flyers included Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Rick MacLeish, Dave Schultz, Don Saleski, "Moose" Dupont and Ed Van Impe.

1990 Edmonton Oilers

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    Yes, this was the Oilers' fifth Stanley Cup title in seven years, but this was not the same Edmonton machine that had won the previous four.

    For one thing, Wayne Gretzky was gone—sold to the Kings in the summer of 1988 when ownership couldn't afford to keep the living legend. A lot of the core players from the Edmonton dynasty were getting old and a bit past their primes.

    Many people doubted that the Oilers could win without "The Great One," but with the help of Mark Messier and goalie Bill Ranford, they managed to do just that.

    Their Stanley Cup run included a four-game sweep over Gretzky and the LA Kings in the second round, and a six-game triumph over a tough Blackhawks team the Western Conference final.

    Game 1 of the final series against the Bruins was the longest game ever played in the history of the finals. It finally came to an end with less than 5:00 left in the third overtime when fourth-line winger Petr Klima scored the game-winning goal. The Oilers won the series in five games for their fifth and, thus far, final Stanley Cup.

1993 Montreal Canadiens

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    The 1993 Montreal Canadiens finished in third place in their division behind the powerhouse Bruins and Quebec Nordiques, so nobody expected them to go very deep into the playoffs.

    In the postseason, the Habs got some great goaltending from Patrick Roy and found a knack for overtime victories. Montreal set a record by winning 10 consecutive games in the extra session including three in the Stanley Cup final against the Kings.

    The turning point of the series came in Game 2. With the Kings up 1-0 in the series and clinging to a one-goal lead late in the third, the Canadiens had Marty McSorley's stick measured and it was found to be illegal, resulting in a two-minutes penalty. The Habs pulled their goalie and scored with a 6-on-4 advantage to tie the game. They won in overtime and never looked back.

    In addition to Roy, the Habs were led by Kirk Muller, Guy Carbonneau, Denis Savard, John LeClair and Vincent Damphousse.

2012 Los Angeles Kings

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    The 2012 Kings became the first ever No. 8 seed to win a Stanley Cup Final.

    L.A. struggled to score goals throughout the regular season, finishing a dismal 29th in offense. But a trade-deadline deal to acquire Jeff Carter added some more scoring punch, and Jonathan Quick continued his outstanding play in goal to help the Kings squeak into the playoffs.

    They upset the team with the league's best record in the Vancouver Canucks in the opening round and got past the other two division winners (the Blues and Coyotes) in equally impressive fashion to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

    The New Jersey Devils were the last obstacle to what seemed like an impossible dream.

    Strong play from Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and Carter helped propel the Kings to victory.

    During their playoff run, the Kings were an impressive 10-1 on the road and captured the franchise's first Stanley Cup.


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