The Tampa Bay Lightning
are were in the midst of one of the craziest playoff runs in recent memory, after losing star forward Steven Stamkos before the playoffs began, and are now without goaltender Ben Bishop for the foreseeable future. Somehow, the Lightning find found themselves up 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins, leading to discussion on Twitter as to whether or not this it could turn into the greatest run to the Stanley Cup Finals ever. To solve the debate, this week’s Pick Six takes a look at the best playoff runs in NHL history.
6. 2013 Boston Bruins
The 2013 Boston Bruins seemed to be having a rough time all-around in the last month of the strike-shortened season, both on and off the ice. The city of Boston was in the midst of recovering from the tragic Boston Marathon Bombing, and the Bruins themselves seemed to lose a step after the event. They managed to falter to the fourth seed in their conference after a loss in their last regular season game that could’ve given them the second seed, which makes it tough to call them a Cinderella story. However, the circumstances through the playoffs made them feel like an underdog. In their opening series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, they took a 3-1 series lead before the Maple Leafs roared back to force a Game 7 in Boston. In Game 7, the Maple Leafs held a 4-1 lead in the third period, and all seemed lost for the Bruins. However, in the span of 11 minutes, the Bruins scored three unanswered goals to tie the game, with Patrice Bergeron knotting the tying goal with 55 seconds left, and they pulled out an overtime win. They then defeated the sixth-seeded New York Rangers, and swept the dominant top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference Finals, before losing a tight series against the Chicago Blackhawks. It may seem like a stretch to call this one of the top playoff runs the league has ever seen, but the impact it had on the city and the league at the time made it one for the history books.
5. 2010 Philadelphia Flyers
The Bruins may seem like a success story now after their 2011 Stanley Cup win and their 2013 run, but it came after the biggest failure the franchise has ever seen. The Philadelphia Flyers squeaked into the playoffs after a shootout win in the final game of the regular season, and made the most of the opportunity by upsetting the second-seeded New Jersey Devils. They then fell behind 3-0 to the sixth-seeded Bruins, and their road to history began. They forced a Game 7 in Boston, where they fell behind 3-0 in the first period and their historic run seemed to be over. However, they fought back and scored four unanswered goals to take the lead and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, becoming the third team to ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit. They defeated the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens, and then fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals in six games to end their magical run. They didn’t come out on top, but to even be there after the season they had was remarkable.
4. 2006 Edmonton Oilers
No eighth seed in the Stanley Cup’s current format had ever made it to the Finals, but the Edmonton Oilers were prepared to make history in 2006. They entered the playoffs almost as an unknown, as many were ready to see them get destroyed by the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings. They then knocked off the fifth-seeded San Jose Sharks by winning four straight after falling behind 2-0 in the series, and continued their run by beating the sixth-seeded Anaheim Mighty Ducks to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals to face the Carolina Hurricanes. The Oilers fell behind 3-1 in the series, but fought back to force a Game 7 for the chance to pull of their miraculous run. The clock struck midnight, however, as the Hurricanes proved to be too much for the Oilers, and their luck ran out.
3. 1994 Vancouver Canucks
The 1994 Vancouver Canucks, the seventh seed coming into the playoffs, came in as massive underdogs to their rival, the second-seeded Calgary Flames. The Flames were performing as expected in the opening round, as they took a 3-1 series lead, but the Canucks didn’t go away. They pulled off one of the craziest comebacks the NHL has ever seen, as they won three straight games in overtime. They then beat the fourth-seeded Dallas Stars in five games, and then defeated the third-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals against the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers. The Canucks forced a Game 7 after falling behind 3-1 in the series, but came up short to lose the series. Despite the loss, dispatching the second, third and fourth seeds in the conference as the seventh seed is an impressive run.
2. 1991 Minnesota North Stars
The North Stars had no business being in the playoffs in 1991, after finishing with a record of 27-39-14. They finished 38 points behind the division’s top seeded Blackhawks, the team they’d be matched up against in the first round. The North Stars made it seem like the two teams were equals, however, as they went on a rampage after falling 2-1 in the series. Goaltender Jon Casey allowed just two goals in the next three games, and the North Stars advanced with a 3-1 win in Game 6. They then took down their division’s second-seeded St. Louis Blues in six games, and then defeated the Smythe Division’s third-seeded Oilers to advance to the finals. The Finals went against their Cinderella story completely, as they were up 2-1 in the series, before the Penguins scored 19 goals in the final three games to win the series in six games.
1. 2012 Los Angeles Kings
Unlike the previous five teams on this list, the Los Angeles Kings made history in a winning effort. The 2012 Kings became the first and only eighth-seeded team to win the Stanley Cup Finals, and did it in dominant fashion. They upset the Presidents Trophy winners and defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks in five games, and then swept the St. Louis Blues with Jonathan Quick allowing just six goals in the four-game series. Then, The Kings took down the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Finals in an overtime, Game 5 victory. They then continued their dominant and surprising run by routed the Devils 6-1 in Game 6 to give the franchise their first Stanley Cup. They finished with a record of 16-4, and pulled off the most impressive run in NHL playoff history.