By qualifying for the playoffs via a shootout win over the New York Rangers in their final regular season game, the Flyers -- who had the NHL's 18th-best record (41-35-6 for 88 points) -- may be the most unlikely Stanley Cup finalist since the league's 1967 expansion. Their road included only the third comeback from a three-games-to-none deficit and a reliance on two journeymen goalies (Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton), all while nursing injuries to key players like Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne.
2 of 9Grant Halverson/Getty Images
2006 Edmonton Oilers
Chris Pronger (left) and the gritty Oilers were an afterthought in the first post-lockout playoffs, but veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson went on the most remarkable run of his career and upsets of Presidents' Trophy-winner Detroit (six games), San Jose (six) and Anaheim (five) followed. The first eighth-seed to reach a Cup final in the playoff format adopted in 1994, the Oilers rallied out of a three-games-to-one hole to extend Carolina to seven games despite a season-ending knee injury to Roloson in Game 1 that required backups Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen to come off the bench they'd been on since the start of the playoffs.
3 of 9AP
2004 Calgary Flames
The sixth-seeded Flames, in their first playoffs since 1996, rode the hot goaltending of Miikka Kiprusoff and the hard-nosed leadership and scoring of Jarome Iginla to upsets of rival Vancouver (seven games), Detroit (six) and San Jose (six), becoming the first squad to oust three Western division-winners as well as the first Canadian team in 10 years to reach the Cup final. Against Tampa Bay, the Flames held a three-games-to-two lead at home before falling in seven.
4 of 9David E. Klutho/SI
2003 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Making the playoffs for the first time in four years, and only the third time in their history (they'd never been beyond the second round), the seventh-seeded Ducks upset defending Cup champion Detroit, heavily-favored Dallas, and Minnesota (which had pulled off two 3-1 series comebacks) en route to a seven-game showdown with New Jersey. Along the way, goalie J-S Giguere posted five shutouts, a 1.52 GAA, and a scoreless streak of 217 minutes 44 seconds, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy before collapsing on the ice in an emotional heap after the Ducks fell in seven games.
5 of 9David E. Klutho/SI
1996 Florida Panthers
"We were 500-to-1 odds to make the Stanley Cup, and I didn't take that bet myself," said coach Doug MacLean of his Panthers who, in their third season, not only made their first playoffs, but were the first team to reach the final so quickly. Cheered on by plastic rat-throwing fans, this lunchbucket bunch led by Scott Mellanby, Tom Fitzgerald and goalie John Vanbiesbrouck came in as the East's fourth seed and beat Boston in five before upsetting top-seed Philadelphia in six. Then they ousted the No. 2 Penguins in a seven-game conference final by holding Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr scoreless in the last five matches, overcoming a three-games-to-two deficit, and taking Game 7 in Pittsburgh, 3-1. Alas, it was their last hurrah. The Cats were swept in the Cup final by Colorado.
6 of 9Mike Powell/Getty Images
1994 Vancouver Canucks
In the first year of the new conference-seeded format, coach Pat Quinn's Canucks (41-40-3, 85 points) were the West's seventh seed. Their top scorer, Pavel "the Russian Rocket" Bure, had a reputation as a playoff fizzle, but he capped a three-games-to-one comeback with a double OT goal in a Game 7 first-round upset of rival Calgary. The waters parted as top-seed Detroit was taken out by No. 8 San Jose, and after a five-game takedown of Dallas with Bure on a rampage, the Canucks knocked out No. 3 Toronto to meet the NY Rangers in an epic seven-game Cup final in which they nearly overcame another three-games-to-one deficit.
7 of 9B Bennett/Getty Images
1991 Minnesota North Stars
"What is happening to the North Stars is approaching the mystical," noted the Minneapolis Star Tribune . Coach Bob Gainey's squad went 27-39-14, amassing only 68 points, but they bulled their way through the Campbell Conference, upsetting two 100-point teams. First was goon-it-up Chicago, with the Stars scoring a record-tying 15 power play goals. Then came Brett Hull's Blues, making Minnesota the first team since expansion to down a No. 1 and a No. 2 in one playoff season. A five-game conference final win over the defending Cup champ Oilers made Minny the first Norris Division team in 10 years to reach the final: a date with Mario Lemieux's Penguins that they managed to survive for six games.
8 of 9Tony Triolo/SI; Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images
1982 Vancouver Canucks
Their record (30-33-17; 77 points) was as ugly as their uniforms, but Stan Smyl, Tiger Willams, goalie Richard Brodeur and the rest of the Canucks managed to survive three rounds, thanks in part to a new playoff format that had four teams from each division playing a best-of-five semifinal before a best-of-seven division final. The Canucks ended up playing and beating tomato cans, first Calgary (75 points) and then Los Angeles (63), which had pulled off a huge and very convenient upset of Wayne Gretzky's high-powered Oilers. In the conference final, the Canucks qualifed as cannon fodder for the two-time defending champion Islanders by beating weak sister Chicago (72 points).
9 of 9Eric Schweikardt/SI
1968-70 St. Louis Blues
It can be startling to see that the Blues reached the Cup final for three straight years, but after the NHL expanded by six teams in 1967, someone from the newly-formed West Division (Philadelphia, LA, St. Louis, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Oakland) had to go. The Blues, with such creaking stars as Red Berenson, Glenn Hall, Dickie Moore and Doug Harvey, got past the top seed Flyers and fourth-seed North Stars in hard-fought seven-game series in '68 only to be swept by mighty Montreal, who got out the broom again in '69. The third time wasn't the charm as Bobby Orr's iconic flying goal completed Boston's sweep of the Blues in the '70 final.
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