The NHL might not be on par with the NBA, NFL or MLB on a global scale, but any astute sports fan will realize that the NHL playoffs are the most dramatic, electrifying and utterly exciting.
Baseball and football can’t match the type of upsets we continually see in hockey, because they never have the 16th ranked team playing the first place team. The NBA rarely sees these types of upsets because they’ve only recently gone to best of seven in the first round. Only the 2007 Golden State Warriors (8th seed) have upset the top seed (Dallas Mavericks) in a seven game series.
The NHL has seen this movie countless times, and it never gets old.
I went to J.H Picard High School, and suffice to say I had to deal with many Habs fans. I despised the Habs, mostly because my buddy Benny loved them, and because I couldn’t stand Patrick Roy. 1986 and 1993 were the two longest springs of my life. Benny wasn’t a diehard fan, who could name every player, but he was staunchly loyal to the Canadiens and made it known every day in school how great those Cup runs were.
I still can’t stand the Habs, but watching them become the first 8th seed to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a series was highly entertaining. I, like everyone, didn’t give the Habs a chance at the start of the series, and going into game seven I, like most, were certain their bubble would burst.
As I watched the final seconds tick down I wondered where this series would rank in terms of biggest upsets of all time.
There were a few obvious ones that came to mind. The Oilers stunning the Wings in 2006, or the Sharks winning their first ever series led by Arturs Irbe and his horrible helmet/mask combination over the same Wings in 1994.
Do you remember the 1993 Islanders ending the Penguins quest for three straight Cups when David Volek scored in OT of game seven? I still remember his awful helmet, and I know it was in the 2nd round, but the Pens were stacked.
How about the Miracle on Manchester in 1982? When the Kings won the series 3-2, but more importantly, won game five 6-5 in OT, after trailing 5-0 early in the second period.
Or when the young Oilers led by Andy Moog and Wayne Gretzky swept the storied Montreal Canadiens three games straight in 1981. The Oilers were the 14th seed and Montreal was seeded 3rd heading into the postseason.
Some would suggest the Canadiens upset of the vaunted Bruins in 1971 was huge, but the Canadiens had 97 points that year. The Bruins finished with 118 and were clearly favoured, but for my money that isn’t in the same category as the aforementioned series.
Of course there have been others. The Sharks were seeded first last year only to lose to Anaheim in the first round.
In 2000, the Sharks were eighth when they faced The Human Rake and the Blues who finished 27 points ahead of them, but the Sharks won in seven games when Steve Shields stood on his head in goal.
You could pick through a myriad of upsets involving the seven seed. Since 1994, when the NHL went to the current playoff system, the seventh seed has won 15 of the 32 series including the Flyers this season.
1994: Both seven seeds won. The Capitals defeated the Penguins in six, while the Canucks downed he Flames in seven.
1995: The Sharks defeated the 2nd ranked Flames in seven.
1996: No upsets.
1997: Oilers defeated the Stars in seven.
1998: Edmonton surprised Colorado in seven, while the Canadiens downed the Penguins in six.
1999: The seventh seeded Sabres swept Ottawa four straight to start their surprising run to the Cup.
2000: Pittsburgh stunned Washington in five games.
2001: Toronto swept the Senators and the Kings upset the Wings in six. (Getting swept as a number two seed twice in three years must have really hurt Senators’ fans.)
2002: Ottawa gets some redemption routing Philly in five games.
2003: Anaheim shocks Detroit in four starting their improbable trek to the Cup.
2004: Montreal continues to own the Bruins winning in seven games.
2005: No season
2006: Colorado spanks Dallas in five.
2007: No upsets
2008: No upsets
2009: No upsets
2010: Flyers dominate the Devils in five.
The Canadiens finished 33 points back of the Canadiens, which is the biggest gap since the LA Kings and their 46-point deficit shocked the Oilers in 1982, and when you couple the 33-point difference and coming back to win in seven after trailing three games to one, the Canadiens win has to be considered one of the greatest of all time.
Do you have any other memorable upsets?
ICE WOMEN OF THE WEEK
As we come to the end of the first round of the NHL playoffs, we also need to take a moment the salute the Ice Women that are no longer with us. As they hang up their toe picks, shovels, mid-drift bearing shirts and t-shirt slings for the season, we feature the blondes, brunettes, toned and tanned from those teams that won’t be moving to the 2nd round.
Say hello to Ashlyn a rookie from Nashville, Sara the beach babe from LA and Liz who cheered the Coyotes all the way to game seven. Cheer on ladies and we patiently await your return next season!
- I wonder if those who think Ovechkin is a better player than Crosby still think that? Crosby was in on 14 of the 24 Penguin’s goals. Ovechkin was in on ten of 22, but didn’t do much in games six and seven when it mattered most.
- I have no idea why I will even submit my picks for the second round after going an embarrassing 3-5 in the first round. Although I doubt many of you had the Habs, Bruins and Flyers moving on. At least my pick of the Sharks to win the Cup is still alive.
- I’ll take the Pens in six and the Flyers in six. The Bruins will get a huge boost with Savard coming back, but the Flyers are playing exceptional team defence right now. I said I should have picked the Flyers in the first round and didn’t and with three injuries, Gagne, Laperriere and Carter I should go with the Bruins, but I won’t. The Pens have experience in the playoffs, and their big guns, Crosby and Malkin will produce where Washington’s didn’t.
- The best series should be the Hawks and Canucks. The Canucks want payback from last year, while the Hawks are out to prove they’re a legitimate threat to win the Cup. I’ll take Kane and his Mullet in six games. (More on this series later) The Sharks should be more relaxed, and while the Wings have more experience and players who deliver in the clutch, I’ll take the Sharks in seven. We probably won’t see a Joe Thornton sighting, but Patrick Marleau will make an appearance this round.
- How long before the league renames the Hart Trophy the Wayne Gretzky Trophy?
- All is quiet on the Flames front regarding any changes, which means we’ll probably see a major one. Just a hunch but if someone goes, I bet it is Brent Sutter not Darryl.
- The more I think about it the more I like Drew Doughty to the Norris, and he might own it for the next seven years. Outside of Duncan Keith do you see any D-man challenging him over the next few seasons?
- I wonder how many sleepness nights Darrly Sutter has had watching Mike Cammalleri become the offensive leader of the Canadiens? When he traded for Olli Jokinen in 2009 he basically said goodbye to the dyslexic squid. Ouch.
- Tyler Seguin was named OHL player of the year, but that shouldn’t sway the scout’s decision, just like they shouldn’t be swayed if Taylor Hall makes it to the Memorial Cup. I said shouldn’t, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be. Their job is to project which one will be better in the NHL, not who is the best right now.
- Cassie Campbell should stop tweeting.
- Worst decision in a long time goes to the City of Vancouver, Mayor Mike Robertson and the Vancouver Canucks for declaring Tuesday April 27th CANUCKS DAY. What the hell were they thinking? They won one round. Talk about a premature celebration. What happens if they beat Chicago, will it be Canucks Day round two? I know they have never won the Stanley Cup, but they’ve made it to the finals twice, at least act like you’ve won a series before.
- JW, is it an election year in BC? Is Robertson trying to drum up some votes?