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Best Stanley Cup finals of all time | Top 5

The 2020 Stanley Cup finals are here. As the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Dallas Stars lock horns to try and claim the biggest prize in ice hockey,  we decided to take a look at the five best Stanley Cup finals ever played. Which takes the top spot?

 

5 best Stanley Cup finals of all time

 

5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Chicago Blackhawks (1992)

You might question how a 4-0 whitewash by the heavy favourites, the Pittsburgh Penguins, makes it into our list of the best Stanley Cup finals. However, if you look beyond the scorecard it becomes easier to understand. The Penguins won their first ever Stanley Cup in 1991 and this was their chance to clinch back to back triumphs. They were expected to see off the Blackhawks with relative ease, so you can imagine that it was one of the more surprsising NHL scores of the season when the Blackhawks took a 3-0 – and then 4-1 – lead in game one.

The Penguins rallied and came back to win 5-4, with the winner coming with less than 30 seconds remaining. Games two and three were cagey affairs and both went the way of the Penguins befre game four, which gave them the clean sweep, was a goa- fest which the Blackhawks should have won. The 4-0 series win makes it look like a stroll in the park but it was far from it. It was an extremely close Stanley Cup finals series, something which wasn’t reflected in the ultimate scoreline.

 

4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Detroit Red Wings (2009)

One of the best Stanley Cup finals ever took place in 2009, as The Penguins and the Red Wings arrived with their regular season points returns tracking almost identically throughout the campaign. It is really little wonder that it took seven games to crown a winner after an enthalling series in which momentum swung back and forth. It was that unpredictability which earns it fourth place on our list of the greatest Stanley Cup finals.

The Red Wings were looking for back to back Stanley Cup wins for the first time since managing the feat in 1997/98. It looked good after two games, both of which they won 3-1. The Penguins showed they were no pushovers though, winning games three and four. The fifth game stacked the deck back in Red Wings’ favour with a fit again Pavel Datsyuk returning to the side for his first appearance of the series. He was instrumental in the 5-0 win.

Everything pointed to a Red Wings win in game six but an in-form Marc-Andre Fleury had other ideas. He produced several big saves as the Penguins won 2-1 to force a decider. Game seven started with centre Maxime Talbot scoring a brace but, after the deficit was halved late, on the Penguins were made to sweat. With backs to the wall, the Penguins had to thank the crossbar for keeping the Red Wings at bay and they clinched another title thanks to one of the best Stanley Cup runs ever.

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3) Boston Bruins vs. Vancouver Canucks (2011)

It was written that one of these sides would end their drought. The Canucks had never lifted the trophy despite being formed some 40 years earlier whilst the Bruins hadn’t done so since 1972. The emotion attached to such a historic event was certainly evident and The Canucks edged out games one and two with late goals. In the fact it was the only score in game one and an overtime win in two, which ensured the Bruins had a mountain to climb. The Canucks had been roughhousing to say the least with Alexandre Burrows’ bite the most blatant foul play. They carried that edge into game three but it backfired.

Bruins man Nathan Horton was laid out by Aaron Rome but, rather than disrupt Horton’s teammates, it galvanised them. Over the next two games they hit 12 goals and conceded just one to level the series. Game five saw the Canucks restore the series lead with a 1-0 win courtesy of Maxim Lepierre’s third period goal. The Bruins were giving it as good as they got though – particularly where the boundaries of sportsmanship are concerned – and a 5-2 win took the series to game seven. The Bruins breezed it 4-0 to win the Stanley Cup and the two sides still hate one another today.

 

Number 2. New York Rangers versus Vancouver Canucks, 1994

Go and rewatch this series is you have any doubts over it being one of the best Stanley Cup finals ever, from the opening game it was insane. The Rangers dominated play but struggled to turn their superiority into goals with the Canucks levelling in the final minute. That meant overtime and the home teams dominance continued. The problem was they found Canucks keeper Kirk McLean in the form of his life as he recorded more than 50 saves. His performance became all the more meaningful when his team countered to snatch a victory 3-2.

The Rangers won the next three games, however, to take a convincing lead in the series and, when game five rolled around, all eyes were on them. New York was braced for celebration and the crowd were ready to witness history. However, things didn’t go to plan.

By the third quarter, Vancouver raced into a comfortable 3-0 lead before a somewhat stupendous turnaround saw the Rangers hit three without reply to restore parity. The pendulum had swung again. The buzz literally lasted 30 seconds as Dave Babych hit the Canucks fourth before two further goals secured a comprehensive 6-3 win. If the Rangers were to avoid a seventh game they’d need to win in Canada but another Canucks victory ensured that a decider would be required.

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The finale saw a change of pace. The Rangers, who had been slow starters throughout the series, made a lightning quick start taking a 2-0 advantage at the end of the first period. A goal apiece in the second made it 3-1 and then an early strike from Trevor Linden made for a nervy finish. The Rangers stood firm and won their first Stanley Cup in over half a century.

 

1) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings

Did this series deserve to come top of our list of the best Stanley Cup finals ever? In terms of quality, maybe not, but in terms of passion and endeavour, definitely.

The Maple Leafs were clear favourites but it was the Red Wings who took a shock 3-0 series lead and were facing an unlikely whitewash.

Never before had a 3-0 advantage been overturned and, with the Red Wings 2-0 up and cruising in game four, things were looking bleak. However, Toronto pulled back to 2-2 before claiming the match with two late goals from Syl Apps and Nick Metz to keep the series alive. The post-game focus full on Detroit boss Jack Adams who assaulted the referee before the police intervened to break up the madness.

The fight back had begun and ,omentum was firmly back with the Maple Leafs who won the next two to tie the series to activate game seven. After giving up what felt like an insurmountable series lead, the Wings had to play the decider at a packed Maple Leaf Gardens.

Despite facing a two man disadvantage in period one, Detroit remained solid and it was the away team that took the lead with Syd Howe bagging in the second period. After getting their noses in front, Detroit set about defending their lead. Their tactics worked through to the end of the period. If they could survive 20 more minutes of Leafs attacks they would be Champions.

The home crowd were willing their team on though and, eventually, the relentless pressure told as Sweeney Schriner slammed home a loose puck to level things up. The Leafs could taste blood and two minutes later Pete Langelle grabbed what proved to be the winner before Schriner made sure the last few minutes could be played out without too many nerves. The Maple Leafs had done the impossible a 3-0 deficit overturned to round off one of the best Stanley Cup victories ever and certainly the best Stanley Cup game 7.

 


 

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