The Most Memorable NHL Playoff Runs Since 1990

Who doesn’t get excited for playoff season? Here are some of the best playoff runs of the modern era.

Kings vs. Blackhawks, 2014

It’s hard to overstate just how dominant the Kings and the Blackhawks were in the early 2010s. From 2009-10 to 2014-15, the Blackhawks and the Kings won five out of the six Stanley Cups. They were the teams to beat, and they were the teams that needed to beat each other, and nowhere was this more evident than the 2014 Western Conference Final.

The Blackhawks took the first three games, but then the Kings came roaring back, winning the last four games in a rare but oh-so-wonderful-to-watch reverse sweep. In fact, they won those last four games by a combined score of 19-5.

Not that those were easy games. Game 5 saw double overtime and Game 7 went into overtime too.

Canucks vs. Bruins, 2011

Yeah, this was a messy Stanley Cup final. It was messy from Game 1. You had famously outspoken (some would say rude) Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas sniping at Roberto Luongo’s play style in the press. Brad Marchand and the Sedin twins had an on-ice rivalry that matched the best ever seen in the show. And then you had Nathan Horton get taken out of the series following a hit by Aaron Rome that saw Rome get removed for the series, something that ultimately hurt the Canucks.

And when the whole thing ended, the Bruins had broken the hearts of yet another Canadian team . . . and then Vancouver rioted. How’s that for a finale?

Penguins vs. Red Wings, 2009

Call it a rematch. The Penguins and the Red Wings met in 2008, and that year the Red Wings took home their fourth cup in 11 years. But the Penguins had Sid the Kid, then still a young, hungry generational talent still two years away from becoming Canada’s hero at the Olympics.

The series was the first rematch since the Islanders and the Oilers in ’84. The Red Wings took their first two games on home ice, then the Penguins took their first two. The Red Wings responded with a massive 5-0 victory in Game 5, and it looked like the Penguins might not have it in them, but they came back in Game 6 and took it 2-1.

With the stage set for a massive Game 7 in Detroit, things looked a bit rough for the Penguins. After all, the last time a team won a Stanley Cup on the road in Game 7 was in 1971.

The first period went by without a goal, and then the Penguins finally scored a minute into the second. They scored again halfway through the period, after which it was time for the Penguins to hang on against a relentless push by Detroit. They finally scored one with six minutes left in the game, but the Penguins managed to hang in there by blocking shots and getting physical. Sidney Crosby ended up leaving the ice with a knee injury and Marc-Andre Fleury managed to block one final shot right before the final horn.

Edmonton vs. Carolina, 2006

Edmonton wasn’t supposed to be in the Stanley Cup final in 2006. An eight-seeded team, they were supposed to be easy pickings for President’s Cup winners, the Red Wings. But Edmonton toughed it out and won, going on to beat Sharks and the Mighty Ducks. Each time, Edmonton was on paper the lesser team—but each time, Edmonton won the day. For the first time in history, an eighth-seeded team went on to the Stanley Cup final (a feat which would be repeated in 2012 and 2017).

However, disaster struck in Game 1 against the Carolina Hurricanes when goaltender Dwayne Roloson went out on an injury. Replacement tendie Jussi Markkanen was good, but a Stanley Cup final was a real trial by fire. The rest of the series saw much more shot blocking by defensemen than normal. Edmonton fought valiantly, bringing the series to Game 7, but Carolina ultimately won 3-1, leading to a memorable headline for the first-time winner.