In 1990, the Edmonton Oilers won their 5th Cup in 7 seasons. That would mark the end of the mega dynasties in the NHL. Before the Oilers won, the Islanders won 4 in a row, and before that the Canadiens won 4 in a row. Since 1990 there have been some repeats, but nothing close to the level of runs prior to 1990. But there have also been some memorable series. As great as the Stanley Cup Playoffs are, the Finals often end up anti-climatic. Here’s a look at the best Cup Finals in the past 20 years.
1994 – New York Rangers defeat Vancouver Canucks
A memorable double OT win over New Jersey in the East Finals put Mark Messier and the Rangers in the Cup Finals. Vancouver was lead by Pavel Bure and Trevor Linden. Vancouver won Game 1 at Madison Square Garden in overtime, but New York won the next 3, including 2 in Vancouver. The Canucks routed the Rangers 6-3 at MSG and then tied the series with a win at home. The Rangers jumped to a 2-0 lead, then a 3-1 lead before Linden made it close. The Rangers held on in an exciting finish to grab their first Cup since 1954.
1999 – Dallas Stars defeat Buffalo Sabres
The 4 Cup Finals before this one were sweeps, so it was refreshing for the NHL that Dallas and Buffalo delivered a series that included 4 games decided by 1 goal. The series was tied at 2 games when Dallas took a 2-0 shutout win in Game 5. Game 6 went to 3 overtimes in Buffalo before long time NHL vet Brett Hull beat star Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek for the Cup winning goal.
2001 – Colorado Avalanche defeat New Jersey Devils
This was a matchup of two of the most decorated goaltenders in NHL history in Colorado’s Patrick Roy and New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur. Colorado stomped the Devils 5-0 in Game 1, but New Jersey took Game 2 to even the series. The two traded tight victories in New Jersey before the Devils got a 4-1 win in Colorado to go up 3-2 in the series. But Colorado dominated after that, picking up a 4-0 win in New Jersey before claiming the Cup with a 3-1 win at home. Roy won the MVP
2003 – New Jersey Devils defeat Anaheim Mighty Ducks
Anaheim was lead through a surprise playoff run by playoff MVP Jean-Sebestian Giguere in goal. The Devils took the first two games at home with 3-0 wins and looked to be on their way, but Anaheim took Games 3 and 4 at home in overtime. The teams traded easy home wins the next two games to force a 7th game. Anaheim ran out of steam though, losing 3-0 to give the Devils the Stanley Cup. It was a rare final that saw the home team win each game.
2004 – Tampa Bay Lightning defeat Calgary Flames
The Lightning arrived in their first and only Finals courtesy of a 1-0 Game 7 win over Phliadelphia in the East Finals. Calgary had upset San Jose in the West Finals. The two teams split the first 4 games, with each winning once at home and once on the road. Calgary then grabbed another road win in Game 5 in overtime. But they couldn’t claim the Cup at home, as Tampa Bay won a double overtime thriller. The teams played another tight Game 7, with the Lightning grabbing a 2-1 win to claim the Cup.
2009 – Pittsburgh Penguins defeat Detroit Red Wings
These two teams faced off in a pretty good 2008 Finals, but topped it this time around. The series had some extra intrigue with Marion Hossa, who had left Pittsburgh to join Detroit before the season. The teams won each of their first two home games to head back to Detroit tied at 2. The Red Wings pulled off an easy 5-0 win in Game 5. Pittsburgh held on to force a Game 7 with a 2-1 win. The Penguins went on to get the only road win in the series when it mattered most, getting revenge on Detroit with a 2-1 win in Game 7. Evgeni Malkin was the first Russian to win the playoff MVP.