The NHL playoffs are upon us, and that means we are about to enter into 2 1/2 months of exciting bliss. There is no better sport that has 7 game series than hockey. Unlike the NBA, upsets always have, and the 8th place team has a legit shot at winning the Stanley Cup. All it takes is a goaltender to get hot for a few weeks, and an unsung hero to come out of nowhere to have a team move on towards raising the greatest trophy in all of sports above their heads.
The 8th seed has beat the 1 seed 8 times. Her are seven of those cases:
1995 — N.Y. Rangers (8) won best-of-seven series 4-2 over Quebec (1)
1998 — Ottawa (8) won best-of-seven series 4-2 over New Jersey (1)
1999 — Pittsburgh (8) won best-of-seven series 4-3 over New Jersey (1)
2000 — San Jose (8) won best-of-seven series 4-3 over St. Louis (1)
2002 — Montreal (8) won best-of-seven series 4-2 over Boston (1)
2006 — Edmonton (8) won best-of-seven series 4-2 over Detroit (1)
2009 — Anaheim (8) won best-of-seven series 4-2 over San Jose (1)
Several arguments could be made for each series, but let’s scratch the Rangers over Quebec right off the list. The Rangers were the defending Champs and it was a lockout shortened season.
Before we settle into games tomorrow night, let’s take a look at the best upset of the last 25 years
The Sharks were only in their third year of existence, and the Red Wings thought they were ready to take the next step after a string of early round upsets the previous few years in the playoffs. The Wings boasted Hart Trophy winner Sergei Fedorov, 50 goal scorer Ray Sheppard, and future Hall of Famer, Steve Yzerman. The Wings finished 1st overall in the Western Conference, had the 4th highest point total in the NHL. Many were predicting the Wings to sweep the Sharks, and had dreams of an Original Six matchup with the Rangers.
The Sharks stole the first game of the series, absolutely abusing Bob Essensa, whom the Wings has picked up midseason from Winnipeg. Bryan Murray made the decision to turn it over to 21-year-old rookie Chris Osgood in the game 2, and he delivered a shutout and earned himself the crease the next few games, until Essensa started game 5. Essensa would once again get humiliated by the Sharks team that boasted zero stars, unless you count Igor Larinov back in his USSR days.
The Wings would force a game 7 after winning 7-1 in Detroit. Osgood was nearly flawless in that victory, stopping 22 of 23 shots. He would be the netminder for Detroit in the deciding game. However, Osgood would have a forgettable game, as he allowed a goal from Johan Garpenlov just 47 seconds into the contest. The Wings would fall behind 2-0 after Sergei Makarov’s goal, and needed a late goal by Kris Draper in the 1st to stay in it. Slava Kozlov would even it early in the 2nd period. Arturs Irbe would stone the Wings the rest of the way, and it was a rookie mistake by Osgood, as he wandered from his net too far for a clearing attempt that landed on the stick of Jamie Baker, who immediately rifled a shot towards the net before Osgood could return. The Sharks won the first playoff series they were ever involved in and the team being deemed the Western Conference Champs before the playoffs started were staying home.
The Sharks would go on to force a 7-game series with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2nd round, but would be bested. No, the 8th place team didn’t head to the Stanley Cup Finals, that honor belonged to the 7th place team from the Western Conference, the Vancouver Canucks. They ended up pushing the Rangers to 7 games, before the curse of 1940 was finally lifted at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers may have played in 2 of the more exciting series that year (against the Canucks and the Devils), but the Sharks beating the Red Wings was one of the greatest upsets ever.