Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sharks Eaten by Ducks?

Well, down goes Frazier and yet another San Jose season as well as another President's Trophywinner who will not be winning Lord Stanley's Cup, but how great an upset was this?

What are you smokin'?
I'll show you who went down

Obviously, the Anaheim Ducks are a team that is basically, bar Andy McDonald and Samuel Pahlsson, virtually the same crew that won the Cup in 2007. Yet some would have you believe this ranks up there with, say, that rookie Ken Dryden leading Montreal to the upset of upsets over the 70/71 Bruins.

Even that upset, a shocking as it was, has others that are far greater in NHL history. I'll admit there are probably some greater ones impact-wise, but I'm looking at this statistically. So sound the horn and let the countdown begin.

10. 1986 Rangers (.488 winning pct) 3 games to 2 over Flyers (.688) 1st rd.
First of all, 1986 was possibly the strangest playoff year ever with the 7th overall Montreal Canadiens (led by rookie goalie Patrick Roy) meeting up with the 6th overall Calgary Flames (thanks to a Steve Smith own goal) in the Final. Yet it all started in rd. 1 with the 78-pt. NY Rangers knocking off the 110-pt. Philly Flyers thanks mainly to bad goaltending (the death of Pelle Lindbergh certainly cemented the Flyers' hopes) and the fact the Rangers realized there were really only two monsters of the plus-minus on the backline on Philly (Mark Howe +86 and Brad McCrimmon +83) and did a great job pounding them throughout the series.

9. 2006 Oilers (.500) 4 games to 2 over Red Wings (.707) 1st rd.
Another strange playoff year with all four lower seeds in the West winning in rd. 1 and Edmonton, of course, riding a career backup goalie in Dwayne Roloson to the Final. It all started with the Oil knocking off the President's Trophy winners. Despite being outshot by a mile in this series Detroit was done in by bad goaltending on the part of Manny Legace.

8. 1938 Black Hawks (.388) 3 games to 1 over Maple Leafs (.594) Final
You thought the NHL playoffs were brutal when they let in the Snorris Division teams back in the '80s. Think again. Truly the worst Stanley Cup champion in the annals of league history. So the Black Hawks (yes, pre-Blackhawks without the "space") victory led to the NHL waking up and changing the playoff format so such under .500 teams would never again win it all. The league realizing that the best-of-three in the earlier rounds leading to a then best-of-five format for the Final could produce such stinky champions (although they were the first NHL team to sprinkle close to half their lineup with Americans) as a team over a 48-game regular season that was 11 games under .500 (translates to '08/09 New York Islander-like 63-point season) had to go. The '38/39 season saw, at least one semi-final (don't even ask about the rest of the playoff format back then) and the final switched to a best-of-seven series.
The story doesn't end there, for one of the starngest NHL rulings and goalie switch controversies check out the story of the 1938 Final here.

7. 1981 Rangers (.463) 4 games to 2 over Blues (.669) QF
Oh, my those Rangers do love to pull off those upsets. After this stinkbomb laid by the Mike Liut-led Blues, why did Team Canada pick him to play goal in the 1981 Canada Cup? Anyone remember that Final--USSR 8-Canada 1. Thank you, Mike Liut.

6. 1991 North Stars (.425) 4 games to 2 over Blues (.656) 2nd rd.
On the other side of that Ranger coin, I give you the underachieving St. Loser Blues for yet another collapse. This North Stars team provided thrill ride after thrill ride until the bubble burst as Mario and Co. destroyed them 8-0 in Game 6 of the Stanely Cup Final to take home the Pens' first Cup.

5. 1991 Stars (.425) 4 games to 2 over Blackhawks (.663) 1st rd.
President's Trophy Hawks go down and yet another Mike Keenan (see the '86 Flyers) team gets upset early on. The North Stars rode the sensational tending of Jon Casey in 1991 as well as the fie scoring of a certain Canuck employee by the name of Dave Gagner (oh, and Brian Bellows and Neal Broten were no slouches either).
I'm no Dave Gagner, though

4. 1951 Canadiens (.464) over Red Wings (.721) semi-finals
What is it with both the Habs pulling off upsets and the Wings in their monster seasons ('51, '53, '92-'96) losing the plot? Whatever the case, at least in '51 the Habs did not go on and fluke another Cup as the Buds were actually great back then with the '51 Cup their fourth in five seasons.

3. 1945 Maple Leafs (.520) over Canadiens (.800) semi-finals
Look at the Habs' winning percentage. In a 50-game schedule they lost just 8 times. Sure it was a War year but loads of players began returning to their teams as the campaign in Europe wound down. Plus Detroit finished 13 points back! It would be like San Jose finishing first overall with 131 points and the second-best team having 110 points. This was the year the Rocket got his 50 goals in 50 games and the Punch Line (Maurice Richard, Toe Blake and Elmer Lach) finished 1-2-3 in league scoring. It was also the season The Leafs went on to win the Cup in a seventh game in Detroit thanks to rookie goalie Frank McCool (the man who has his own McCool arena) starting off the Finals with three straight shutout wins. For more bizarre trivia, the 1945 Wings clawing back from that 0-3 deficit in games was eerily similar to the 1942 Leafs down 0-3 to the Wings and legendary comeback to win it all in seven.

2. 1930 Canadiens (.580) over Bruins (.875) Final
What is it about Boston and Montreal? Well, this is where it all started. The '29/30 season was one of radical change. The NHL instituted new rules that season allowing forward passing in the offensive zone. If you can believe it, up till then the only forward passing was in your own end and the neutral zone. Then midway through the season because players basically goalsucked the modern offside rule at the bluelines was introduced. No matter how they tinkered with the rules, the Bruins of Eddie Shore and the Dynamite Line of Cooney Weiland, Dit Clapper and Dutch Gainor (now if that doesn't win the All-Name Line, just call me Seppo Repo, put me in an envelope and mail me to Finland) managed to average 4.1 goals a game and the previous season they led the NHL at a 2.0 goals a game clip. The Habs upset led to the Final from 1931 being a best-of-five. the bizarre thing was in 1930 the B's semi was a best-of-five (the Habs one was a best-of-three so, like I said, you thought the playoff system was confusing back in the '70s...think again).

1. 1982 Kings (.394) 3 games to 2 over Oilers (.694) 1st rd.
The Oilers (14th overall with 74 points) fresh off their first playoff foray the previous spring--an Andy Moog inspired three-game upset sweep of the 101-point Montreal Canadiens. Wayne Gretzky of the 50 goals in just 39 games on his way to a record destroying 92-goal, 212-point season. An NHL record 417 goals for. Rookie Grant Fuhr establishing himself in the Oiler net despite Moog's presence.
Let me take you back to Game 4 at the Fabulous Forum in L.A. Series tied 1-1. The Kings in their gold uniforms with the gold pants and socks. The Oilers mocking the Kings by singing "Here we go Oilers, here we go" on the bench after building up a 5-o lead. That Glen Sather smirk behind said bench.
Cue the Miracle on Manchester. The shellshocked Oilers had nothing left in Game 5 and bowed out 7-4 on home ice. Lesson learned (sort of...the '83 Final vs. the Isles and the '86 loss to the Lames aside) as the Oil Dynasty was merely derailed a year or so.
No smirkin' for you in '82

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