By Ryan Porth and Alexander Monaghan
In the just-completed first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a No. 8-seed beat a No. 1-seed for the 10th time under the current playoff format, as Los Angeles topped Vancouver in the West (not to mention Ottawa came oh-so-close to beating New York in the East).
With Round 1 now in the rear view mirror, where do all of the memorable 8 vs. 1 upsets rank?
1. 2006: Oilers over Red Wings
The 2005-06 Red Wings were one of the better regular season teams in recent memory. Finishing the season with 124 points, they would play the eighth-seeded Oilers, coming in at 95 points, in Round 1. Piece of cake, right? Wrong. On the strength of Dwayne Roloson, Chris Pronger and Ales Hemsky, the Oilers pulled off one of the most memorable upsets in sports history. Hemsky scored the series-clinching goal with 1:06 remaining in Game 6, eliminating the heavily-favored Presidents’ Trophy winners in dramatic fashion.
2. 2010: Canadiens over Capitals
Alex Ovechkin and company were the most dominant team in the 2009-10 regular season, coasting to the Presidents’ Trophy. After playoff disappointments in 2008 and 2009, 2010 was their year to win it all. Instead, they ran into a hot goaltender in the first round. With his team’s backs against the wall, Montreal’s Jaroslav Halak put on an unbelievable show. After the Capitals took a 3-1 series lead, Halak put the Canadiens on his back, stopping 131 of the 134 shots he faced in Games 5-7. The Canadiens won Game 7 in Washington by a score of 2-1, completing the magnificent upset.
3. 2000: Sharks over Blues
The first thing that comes to mind with regards to the San Jose Sharks and playoffs is the word choke, but the early renditions of this franchise displayed enough drive to get them past the first round. Led by a new core with veterans Vincent Damphousse, Owen Nolan and Mike Ricci, this Sharks team took the series to seven before defeating a Pavol Demitra-less Blues team. And despite the handicap, the Blues were definitely expected to pull out a win due to both their pedigree and depth.
4. 1994: Sharks over Red Wings
Remember all of those articles about the Red Wings' consecutive playoff berths? Well, back in 1994, they were just beginning that streak. Only little did they know, the eighth-seeded Sharks, who won a mere 28 games between their first two seasons, would be a worthy adversary in the first round. Led by would-be Red Wing Igor Larionov, and on the strength of excellent goaltending, the Sharks delivered one of the better playoff performances in team history. And to this day the boys in teal still have the Wings' number.
5. 2002: Canadiens over Bruins
Jose Theodore, who won the Hart and Vezina Trophies in 2002, backstopped the Canadiens to a stunning upset of rival Boston in the first round. Montreal beat Boston in six games, inspired by the surprise return of Saku Koivu, who beat his bout with cancer. Theodore was brilliant in Games 5 and 6 as the Habs manufactured enough goals to pull off the unlikely upset. This series has a chapter by itself in the prolonged novel that is the classic Habs-Bruins rivalry.
6. 1998: Senators over Devils
Similar to the Nordiques in 1995, the young core in Ottawa was just getting their feet wet back in 1998. Both Alexei Yashin and Daniel Alfredsson only had a few seasons under their belt while Marian Hossa failed to crack the postseason roster that season. Yet an elevated performance from both players was enough to get them by an inconsistent Devils squad. Despite four trips to the Stanley Cup Finals in 10 years for the Devils, the team lost in the first round four times over that span and even failed to make the show directly after their victory in 1996. This was Ottawa's first-ever playoff series win.
7. 2012: Kings over Canucks
Prior to the start of these playoffs, Los Angeles was a sexy pick to beat the Daniel Sedin-less Canucks. But I don’t think anyone expected to see the Kings control the series like they did against the Presidents’ Trophy winners. Darryl Sutter’s Kings outworked the Canucks en route to a 3-0 series lead, putting the defending conference champs on the brink. Cory Schneider saved the Canucks’ season in Game 4, but Jonathan Quick was better in the decisive Game 5. Jarret Stoll was the overtime hero in Game 5, finishing off the upset in a series that was one-sided.
8. 1999: Penguins over Devils
Even though Jaromir Jagr dominated the regular season -- as he did basically every season from 1990-2001 -- the Penguins found themselves in a lesser seeding. The team finished with a mediocre 38-30-14 record, which barely got them into the show with 90 points. But with standout showings by Jagr, Martin Straka, and Alexei Kovalev, the Penguins were able to defeat their divisional rival and advance to the second round. As previously mentioned, the Devils were hot and cold over that 10-year stretch, and in 1999 they simply could not withhold goals from a very dangerous offense.
9. 1995: Rangers over Nordiques
Before the Quebec Nordiques became the powerhouse Colorado Avalanche dynasty, they had some growing pains. After taking the Northeast Division, the team had the pleasure of taking on the reigning Stanley Cup Champions in the New York Rangers – a very difficult and motivated No. 8-seed. And while they get it their best shot, the raw combination or Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic was simply not enough to overcome the battle-tested veteran core of the Rangers, losing in six games.
10. 2009: Ducks over Sharks
Let’s be honest – Anaheim was not a true 8-seed in 2009. Randy Carlyle’s crew struggled in the second half, but had the talent to be a 4 or 5 seed. They took on in-state rival San Jose, who won the Presidents’ Trophy and appeared to be the Cup favorite. But the Sharks relished the Presidents’ Trophy a little too much and came out flat in Games 1 and 2 – losing both. They would end up making a series out of it, forcing a Game 6 in Anaheim. But the Ducks looked like the better, stronger team in this series, and never relinquished their series choke-hold. San Jose’s playoff misery continued, while Anaheim pulled off yet another upset.
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