Most of Stanley Cup Finals history has marked by dynasties and most of that was done by the Montreal Canadiens. This summation of hockey’s championship round picks up with the final installment of the Montreal Dynasty, the one that ran from 1976-79. We continue on through new dynasties, the coming of the New York Islanders and Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers.
GREAT 1980s SPORTS MOMENTS
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The 1989 season marked a turning point. Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings the summer prior and the age of the dynasty effectively ended. There have been some teams with good runs to be sure—the Pittsburgh Penguins of Mario Lemieux in the early 1990s and Sidney Crosby’s Pens in recent years. There were the Detroit Red Wings of the late 1990s. All won repeat Cups. Teams like the recent edition of the Chicago Blackhawks or the Martin Brodeur-era New Jersey Devils won three Cups in short periods of time.
But by the standards of previous NHL dynasties, today is much different and the way this timeline is set up reflects that. The dynasties of the Canadiens, Islanders and Gretzky’s Oilers all won four Stanley Cups. Montreal and New York four-peated, while Edmonton took four in five years. We summarize those dynastic runs as a whole. Then, starting in 1989, we go year-by-year, using the same format TheSportsNotebook uses for other championship events, ranging from the Super Bowl to the Final Four, and continuing up through 2019.
I hope you enjoy this ride through the modern era of Stanley Cup Finals history. Bookmark this page for handy reference and visit our Pinterest page for a pictorial ride through the same era.
MONTREAL CANADIENS (1976-79)
From the franchise inception in 1918 up through 1975, the Montreal Canadiens were NHL royalty, winning the championship 19 times. That included one run of five Stanley Cups in a row from 1956-60 and a run of four Cups in five years from 1965-69. With those standards setting the bar, the fact Montreal had last won the Stanley Cup in 1973 and that it wasn’t part of a repeat run, made it seem like the franchise had work to do. And over the four-year stretch from 1976-79, they launched one more glorious dynasty.
This was a team loaded with Hall of Fame talent. Ken Dryden was arguably the best goalie of all-time. Guy Lafleur was one of the great scorers in league history. Jacques Lemair, Steve Shutter and Larry Robinson were all bound for the Hall of Fame. Scotty Bowman, the head coach, was another all-time great.
In 1976, Montreal met up with Philadelphia’s famed Broad Street Bullies, who had won the Cup in 1974 and 1975. Dryden was dominant, holding a potent offensive attack led by league MVP Bobby Clarke eventual Conn Smythe winner Reggie Leach to nine goals in four games. Montreal took the first three games by a goal and then closed out a sweep.
1977 was the best team of this four-year run. Dryden was again the best goalie in the game, Lafleur won both the MVP and the Conn Smythe and when the Finals come, Montreal blew through the Boston Bruins in another four-game sweep.
In 1978, the gap between Montreal and the rest of the league started to narrow, but that was still a lot of ground for the rest of the field to make up. A Canadiens-Bruins rematch took place in the Finals. This time around, Boston managed to split the first four games, but Montreal showed their mettle and closed it out in six.
1979 was even hairier. This time, the Montreal-Boston matchup took place in the semis and the Bruins took the series to a seventh game. And held a one-goal lead with three minutes to go in Game 7. Then Boston was whistled for too many men on the ice, Lafleur cashed in a power play goal and the Canadiens survived in overtime. They went on to get rid of an overmatched New York Rangers team that had gotten on a magical playoff ride, in a five-game Stanley Cup Finals.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS (1980-83)
The New York Islanders came into existence in 1973 and from 1975-77 were in the playoff semifinals each year. But as the league anticipated the Islanders getting ready to challenge the Canadiens, New York suffered playoff disappointment in both 1978 and 1979. Each year they lost one round prior to getting a shot at the champs.
This Islanders team was led by two great offensive players, Bryan Trottier at center and Mike Bossy at forward. Denis Potvin was the key defenseman and Billy Smith the primary goaltender.
In 1980, New York beat the two best regular season teams in the playoffs, Buffalo and Philadelphia. The Sabres were now coached by Bowman, so this is as close as the Islanders would come to directly beating the Canadiens, who lost early in the playoffs. New York then beat Philly in a six-game Finals, capping it off with Bob Nystrom’s overtime goal to take Game 6. Trottier’s 12 goals/17 assists in the playoffs won him the Conn Smythe.
New York dominated in 1981. They were the best team in the regular season and other top contenders fell apart in the playoffs. The Islanders didn’t play anyone seeded higher than 7th in the 16-team bracket. They beat the Minnesota North Stars in the finals. Butch Goring, with 10 goals/10 assists, grabbed the Conn Smythe, although Bossy finished with a 17/13 line.
In 1982’s first round against the then-lowly Pittsburgh Penguins, the Isles trailed by a goal in the final three minutes. John Tonelli scored in regulation to tie the game and in overtime to win it. It was by far the toughest test in a playoff run that ended with sweeps of Quebec and Vancouver. Bossy won the Conn Smythe.
In 1983, the structure of the playoffs changed to a strict division-based format, where the league simply took the top four teams from each of the four divisions, seeded them 1 thru 4 and then let them pare it down to the conference finals, which were now also split between East & West.
The Isles cruised to the conference finals and then faced the regular season’s best team the Boston Bruins. A New York offense that often struggled in 1983 unloaded at home in this series—they won Games 3-4 & 6 with a combined 23 goals and took the series in six games.
The NHL’s rising star, Wayne Gretzky, awaited in the Finals with his Edmonton Oilers. But the Islanders were the experienced team and they played much better defense. Billy Smith capped off his Conn Smythe run by holding the Oilers to six goals in four games, as New York capped their dynasty with a sweep.
GRETZKY’S EDMONTON OILERS (1984-88)
1984 was the fifth year of existence for the Edmonton Oilers and Wayne Gretzky was the MVP in all five of those years. He was joined by future Hall of Famers in Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Mark Messier and Paul Coffey. Another future Hall of Famer, Grant Fuhr was in net. After losing the Finals in 1983, Edmonton was ready to take that proverbial next step.
Edmonton was nearly derailed in the second round of the 1984 playoffs, when they were taken to a Game 7 by the Calgary Flames. That was an ominous foreshadowing, but nothing that would stop them this year. The Oilers eliminated Calgary and went on to sweep out the Islanders in a changing-of-the-guard moment at the Finals. Messier’s 8 goals/18 assists for the playoffs won him the Conn Smythe– a curious decision in light of the fact Gretzky’s numbers were 13/22, Kurri was 14/14 and Fuhr had drastically lifted his game in the postseason.
The second year has been a powerful year for the dynasties discussed here and Gretzky’s Oilers were no different in 1985. Edmonton finished with the league’s best record. In the playoffs, Gretzky scored 17 goals and handed out 30 assists. In the last three rounds, the Oilers scored eight goals in the clinching win of each series. This team knew how to put an exclamation point on a win and their five-game Finals triumph over the Flyers sealed it.
1986 looked like more of the same through the regular season and one round of the playoffs. But Calgary again took Edmonton to seven games in the second round and this time the Flames sent shock waves through the NHL with a 3-2 win that interrupted the dynasty. Calgary reached the Finals themselves, but the ultimate result was a temporary restoration of the Montreal Dynasty, as the Canadiens won the Cup behind a 20-year-old goaltender named Patrick Roy.
In 1987, Edmonton coasted through the West with a 12-2 record, although Calgary losing in the first round cost the Oilers a chance at revenge. Of greater concern was that Gretzky was having problems scoring. He was held to an unthinkable five goals over the course of the entire 1987 postseason and Philadelphia goalie Ron Hextall would ultimately win the Conn Smythe. Edmonton still won three of the first four in the Finals against the Flyers, but the Oilers blew two-goal leads in losing Games 5 & 6. They finally survived a tough defensive fight in Game 7, winning 3-1 and getting back on top.
The regular season of 1988 gave all indications that Edmonton was slowing down, as they finished second in their division. But the Oilers responded by producing one of the most dominant playoff runs in league history. They went 16-2 in the playoffs. Gretzky scored 12 goals, handed out 31 assists and won the Conn Smythe. A fourth Cup in five years was capped off with a sweep of Boston.
1989: Calgary (54-17-9, #1 in West vs. Montreal (53-18-9, #1 in East)
Result: Calgary in 6
Conn Smythe: Al MacInnis (D, Calgary)
Summary: It was a heavyweight fight with two rising stars in the net. Calgary had Mike Vernon and Montreal countered with Patrick Roy. It was Roy with an early edge, saving 64 of 69 shots over Games 2 & 3, both Canadien wins that gave them a 2-1 series lead. The Flames got an offensive lift from Joe Mullen, who scored two goals in a Game 4 win and then some tough defense got them Game 5. Calgary finished the job on the road, beating Roy for four goals on just 18 shots in a Game 6 win.
1990: Edmonton (38-28-14, #2 in West) vs. Boston (46-25-9, #1 in East)
Result: Edmonton in 5
Conn Smythe: Bill Ranford (G, Edmonton)
Summary: Edmonton didn’t have Gretzky, but they were still loaded with multiple Hall of Famers, including Mark Messier. Game 1 was a triple-overtime classic, with Ranford stopping 50 of 52 shots. The Oilers got a 3-2 win in spite of getting only 31 shots themselves. Edmonton followed it up with a 7-2 blowout. Even though Boston won the third game 2-1, it was apparent Ranford had the Bruins’ number. In Games 4 & 5, the Edmonton goalie saved 53 of 55 shots. A postseason run that saw the Oilers go through Gretzky in Los Angeles and league-best Boston was complete.
1991: Pittsburgh (41-33-6, #3 in East) vs. Minnesota (27-39-14, #7 in West)
Result: Pittsburgh in 6
Conn Smythe: Mario Lemieux (C, Pittsburgh)
Summary: A proud franchise today, Pittsburgh had never won a Stanley Cup in 1991. Minnesota was having a miracle year in sports—the baseball Twins had gone worst-to-first and won the World Series and now the North Stars looked to complete an improbable playoff run. They won two of the first three before Super Mario took over. Lemieux finished the postseason with 16 goals and 28 assists and he led his team to wins of 5-3 and 6-4 to regain control of the Finals. The Penguins finished the job in the Twin Cities with an 8-0 battering.
1992: Pittsburgh (39-32-9, #4 in East) vs. Chicago (36-29-15, #3 in West)
Result: Pittsburgh in 4
Conn Smythe: Mario Lemieux (C, Pittsburgh)
Summary: To no one’s surprise, Lemieux dominated these Finals from the outset. He scored two goals in each of the first two games, as the Pens defended home ice with wins of 5-4 and 3-1. Pittsburgh goalie Tom Barrasso was also stepping up. He’d reduced his goals-against average from 3.53 in the regular season to 2.82 in the playoffs. Barrasso delivered a 1-0 shutout in Game 3 that all but sealed the series. Pittsburgh made it official in Game 4, getting goals from six different players in a 6-5 win that capped the sweep.
1993: Montreal (48-30-6, #4 in East) vs. Los Angeles (39-35-10, #6 in West)
Result: Montreal in 5
Conn Smythe: Patrick Roy (G, Montreal)
Summary: Gretzky was with Los Angeles now, so this was a historic battle between the league’s proudest franchise and its greatest player. Gretzky struck the first blow with a goal and three assists as the Kings took Game 1. Montreal bounced back with a 3-2 overtime win, all three goals coming from Eric Desjardins. The Canadiens took two more overtime wins in Games 3 & 4 behind outstanding performances from Roy. Montreal used complete team defense to stifle Los Angeles in Game 5 and get the 4-1 win that won the Cup.
1994: NY Rangers (52-24-8, #1 in East) vs. Vancouver (41-40-3, #7 in West)
Result: NY Rangers in 7
Conn Smythe: Brian Leetch (D, NY Rangers)
Summary: New York coughed up a lead in the final minute of Game 1 and lost in overtime. It was an astonishing third time in the last eight playoff games this had happened But like before, their resilience was on display. The Rangers won the next three games, twice after spotting the Canucks the early lead. But Vancouver won a wild Game 5, with each team exchanging three-goal flurries in the third period and they won Game 6. New York got two early goals in Game 7 and hung on for a 3-2 win, ending a 54-year championship drought.
*********A strike in 1995 reduced the season to 48 games*********
1995: New Jersey (22-18-8, #6 in East) vs. Detroit (33-11-4, #1 in West)
Result: New Jersey in 4
Conn Smythe: Claude Lemieux (F, New Jersey)
Summary: This was the coming-out party for New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur and the famous neutral-zone trap that would come to define hockey. Detroit had an array of offensive weapons, but the Devils’ defensive tactics simply prevented that talent from getting loose. They held the Red Wings to under 20 shots in all four Finals games. New Jersey came into Joe Louis Arena to get wins of 2-1 and 4-2 to set the tone of the series and essentially break the Red Wings’ spirit. Both games in the Meadowlands were 5-2 finals and the Devils had their first Stanley Cup.
1996: Colorado (47-25-10, #2 in West) vs. Florida (41-31-10, #4 in East)
Result: Colorado in 4
Conn Smythe: Joe Sakic (C, Colorado)
Summary: Colorado had just relocated from Quebec and they acquired a new goalie, getting Patrick Roy in midseason. It was the difference in the playoffs and in these Finals. Colorado took the opener 3-1 and then crushed Florida 8-1 in Game 2. Roy took over when the series went to South Beach. He stopped 32 shots in a 3-2 win and then Game 4 was a triple-overtime goalie war. Roy made 63 saves, John Vanbiesbrouck made 55. It was the 56th shot from Colorado that finally hit home, the goal that brought the Cup to the Rocky Mountains.
1997: Detroit (38-26-18, #3 in West) vs. Philadelphia (45-24-13, #2 in East)
Result: Detroit in 4
Conn Smythe: Mike Vernon (G, Detroit)
Summary: The Red Wings carried a reputation as a regular season team that fizzled in the postseason. This year they lurked in the regular season and turned it on for the playoffs. Detroit came into Philly and took the first two games, each by 4-2 counts. Sergei Federov, the best player of Detroit’s famed “Russian Five”, scored twice and had two assists in a 6-1 rout in Game 3. With the Cup finally in their grasp and the crowd at the Joe in a raucous Saturday night mood, the Red Wings finished the job with a 2-1 win.
1998: Detroit (44-23-15, #2 in West) vs. Washington (40-30-12, #4 in East)
Result: Detroit in 4
Conn Smythe: Steve Yzerman (C, Detroit)
Summary: Detroit had a new regular goaltender, with Chris Osgood having replaced Mike Vernon in getting the most important starts. He was aided in these Finals by an outstanding display of team defense. The Red Wings held the Capitals to fewer than 25 shots per game, and Osgood stopped 94 percent of those shots. The decisive battle was Game 2. It was the one time Detroit needed to generate offense and they did so in a 5-4 overtime win behind two goals from Steve Yzerman. The Red Wings went to the nation’s capital and finished the job behind Osgood.
1999: Dallas (51-19-12, #1 in West) vs. Buffalo (37-28-17, #6 in East)
Result: Dallas in 6
Conn Smythe: Joe Nieuwendyk (C, Dallas)
Summary: The fan bases of Dallas and Buffalo were quite familiar with each other, as the Cowboys beat the Bills in a couple early 1990s Super Bowls. Buffalo hoped goaltender Dominic Hasek would be the difference in this battle. Hasek carried the Sabres to a split of the first four games, before Dallas’ Ed Belfour pitched a Game 5 shutout. Game 6 would be an iconic game. Belfour and Hasek were fantastic and the game went to the third overtime tied 1-1. The ultimate winning goal by Dallas’ Brett Hull was controversial, but it stood. Dallas had broken Buffalo’s heart again.
2000: New Jersey (45-24-8, #2 in East) vs. Dallas (43-23-10, #3 in West)
Result: New Jersey in 6
Conn Smythe: Scott Stevens (D, New Jersey)
Summary: The Devils came out flying offensively, with Jason Arnott and Petr Skykora scoring two goals apiece in a 7-3 rout. The teams traded 2-1 wins, and then New Jersey grabbed a 3-1 win to move to the brink of a championship. Game 5 went into triple overtime–ironic, given Dallas’ own controversial Cup-clinching win in 1999. The Stars showed they still knew how to play late into the night, as a Modano goal kept the series alive. More overtime awaited in Dallas, as a 1-1 tie went into the second extra session. Finally, Arnott scored and the Devils were champs.
2001: Colorado (52-16-10, #1 in West) vs. New Jersey (48-19-12, #1 in East)
Result: Colorado in 7
Conn Smythe: Patrick Roy (G, Colorado)
Summary: The Avalanche had acquired legendary Boston defenseman Ray Borque in midseason and Borque’s pursuit of a Stanley Cup was one of the big storylines of the postseason. After splitting the first two games, both great goalies—Roy and Broduer had shaky moments in the middle games and the Finals was tied 2-2. New Jersey took Game 5 on the road, but Roy drastically outplayed Brodeur in a Game 6 win for Colorado. Roy capped another dominating playoff run—a 93.4% save rate in the postseason–with a 3-1 win in Game 7. Borque was finally a champion.
2002: Detroit (51-17-10, #1 in West) vs. Carolina (35-26-16, #7 in West)
Result: Detroit in 5
Conn Smythe: Nicklas Lidstrom (D, Detroit)
Summary: The Red Wings had loaded up on veteran talent, adding Hasek, Hill and Los Angeles Kings’ star Luc Robatille. Detroit went ahead and spotted Carolina the first game, a 3-2 overtime decision before taking over. This was a defensive-minded series, with the winning team scoring three goals each time and Hasek was outstanding. After a 3-1 win evened the series, Hasek went on the road and pitched a shutout, then won a triple-OT game. The Red Wings sealed the deal with a 3-1 win that saw two goals from Brendan Shanahan and only 17 shots on net for the Hurricanes.
2003: New Jersey (46-20-10, #2 in East) vs. Anaheim (40-27-9, #7 in West)
Result: New Jersey in 7
Conn Smythe: Jean-Sebastian Giguere (G, Anaheim)
Summary: The first two games were virtual replicas Each time, the smothering New Jersey defense held Anaheim to 16 shots and won the game 3-0. But an embarrassing mistake by Brodeur in Game 3 turned the momentum—he accidentally put the puck in his own net. The Devils lost in overtime and again in Game 4. The teams traded wins behind offensive outbursts at home in Games 5 & 6. In Game 7, Jeff Friesen scored two goals for the Devils, Brodeur saved 24-of-24s shots and another 3-0 win brought a third Cup to the Meadowlands.
2004: Tampa Bay (46-22-8, #1 in East) vs. Calgary (42-30-7, #6 in West)
Result: Tampa Bay in 7
Conn Smythe: Brad Richards (C, Tampa Bay)
Summary: The up-and-down play of Lightning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin defined the first four games of the series. Khabibulin was on in Games 2 & 4, off in Games 1 & 3 and the series was tied. Calgary got a 3-2 overtime win in Game 5. Game 6 went two overtimes, with Richards scoring twice, Khabibulin stopping 31 shots and Tampa staying alive with a 3-2 win of their own. The unlikely hero of Game 7 was Ruslan Fedotenko, who lit the lamp twice for the Lightning. With Khabibulin sharp and the defense strong it was enough for a 2-1 win.
*********The 2005 season was lost to a lockout*********
2006: Carolina (52-22-8, #2 in East) vs. Edmonton (41-28-13, #8 in West)
Result: Carolina in 7
Conn Smythe: Cam Ward (G, Carolina)
Summary: Carolina scored the first three goals and Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson, the hottest goallie in the playoffs was injured and lost for the rest of the series. But the Hurricane blew the lead before finally winning 5-4 on a goal by Rod Brind’Amour with 32 seconds left. Carolina then won a 5-0 blowout and split a pair of 2-1 games in Edmonton. But the Oilers scored three quick goals in Game 5, won 4-3, then took Game 6, 4-0. Carolina was able to get the first two goals of Game 7 and seal the 3-1 win with an empty-netter.
2007: Anaheim (48-20-14, #3 in West)-Ottawa (48-25-9, #4 in East)
Result: Anaheim in 5
Conn Smythe: Scott Niedermayer (D, Anaheim)
Summary: Anaheim trailed the opener 2-1 before scoring twice on the power play and winning 3-2. The Ducks then limited the Senators to just 16 shots in a 1-0 win in Game 2. Ottawa took Game 3 and pushed Game 4 into overtime after scoring the tying goal with two minutes left. But Anaheim got an overtime goal from Dustin Penner that won the game and gave them control of the series. With the Cup in their grasp, the Ducks came out firing. They scored twice in the first period, won 6-2 and the home game was one long coronation party.
2008: Detroit (54-21-7, #1 in West) vs. Pittsburgh (47-27-8, #2 in East)
Result: Detroit in 6
Conn Smythe: Henrik Zetterberg (F, Detroit)
Summary: Chris Osgood spun two straight shutouts, 4-0 and 3-0 to open the Finals and the Red Wings split two in Pittsburgh. Game 5 saw Detroit rally from a 2-0 deficit in the first period and then blow a 3-2 lead on a goal with 35 seconds left in the game. The Penguins won in overtime. It had the potential to be a historic collapse if the Red Wings couldn’t close it out. They built a 3-1 lead in Game 6, then got nervous when the Pittsburgh scored with 1:27 left. But this time, the Red Wings hung on.
2009: Pittsburgh (45-28-9, #4 in East) vs. Detroit (51-21-10, #2 in West)
Result: Pittsburgh in 7
Conn Smythe: Evgeni Malkin (C, Pittsburgh)
Summary: For the second straight year, Osgood dominated the first two games at home, stopping 62 of 64 shots and Detroit won both. But Pittsburgh’s duo of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin broke through at home, leading a pair of 4-2 wins that evened the series. Home ice continued to tell the story when the Red Wings scored three power play goals in the second period to win Game 5. But the Penguins locked down defensively behind goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. They won Game 6, 2-1 and broke the home ice trend in Game 7 with another 2-1 victory.
2010: Chicago (52-22-8, #2 in West) vs. Philadelphia (41-35-6, #7 in East)
Result: Chicago in 6
Conn Smythe: Jonathan Toews (C, Chicago)
Summary: The Blackhawks won the first two games in different ways, grabbing the opener 6-5 and the second game 2-1. But the Flyers took two home games of their own, 4-3 in overtime and 5-3, keyed by strong play from center Claude Giroux. Chicago’s offense unloaded in Game 5, getting two goals and two assists from Dustin Byfuglien in an easy 7-4 win. The Blackhawks then clung to a 3-2 lead late in Game 6 before giving up the tying goal with four minutes left. Patrick Kane bailed them out in overtime with the goal that won the Cup.
2011: Boston (46-25-11, #4 in East) vs. Vancouver (54-19-9, #1 in West)
Result: Boston in 7
Conn Smythe: Tim Thomas (G, Boston)
Summary: The first two games were defensive battles between Thomas and Canuck counterpart Roberto Luongo. Vancouver won both, taking the opener 1-0 on a goal with 19 seconds left and a 3-2 decision in Game 2. But Luongo crumbled in Boston, giving up 12 goals in decisive losses in the middle games. The Canucks got another 1-0 grinder on a third-period goal, and Luongo again crumbled on the road, losing 5-2. Boston’s Patrice Bergeron stepped up in Game 7 with two goals, Thomas stopped all 37 shots he saw and the Bruins had their first Cup since the Bobby Orr era.
2012: Los Angeles (40-27-15, #8 in West) vs. New Jersey (48-28-6, #4 in East)
Result: Los Angeles in 6
Conn Smythe: Jonathan Quick (G, Los Angeles)
Summary: Quick and Brodeur battled in a pair of 2-1 overtime games to start the series, each in favor of Los Angeles. Then the Kings broke Brodeur for a 4-0 win in Game 3. But the Devils didn’t go quietly and neither did their proud goalie. In Games 4 & 5, Brodeur stopped 46 of 48 shots, won both and made it a series again. But Los Angeles unloaded for three power play goals in the first period of Game 6, coasted to a 6-1 win and became the lowest seed in history to hoist the Stanley Cup.
2013: Chicago (36-7-5, #1 in West) vs. Boston (28-14-6, #3 in East)
Result: Chicago in 6
Conn Smythe: Patrick Kane (F, Chicago)
Summary: Game 1 encapsulated a thrilling series. The Blackhawks overcame leads of 2-0 and 3-1, and ultimately survived in triple overtime. The Bruins bounced back behind goalie Tuuka Raask’s heroics in Game 2, then won at home in Game 3. It was time for another Chicago comeback—they won a back-and-forth 6-5 overtime game in Game 4, then went home and won the fifth game. Boston led Game 6 2-1 in the final two minutes. One more Blackhawk comeback—two goals in 17 seconds and they were champs. Kane’s nine playoff goals, three in the Finals, got him the Conn Smythe.
2014: Los Angeles (46-28-8, #6 in West) vs. NY Rangers (45-31-6, #5 in East)
Result: Los Angeles in 5
Conn Smythe: Justin Williams (F, Los Angeles)
Summary: Los Angeles spotted New York two-goal leads in the first two games—and won both. They closed out the series with one more comeback, tying Game 5 in the third period and winning it in double-overtime. Williams finished the playoffs with nine goals and 16 assists in leading a postseason where Los Angeles reigned as the Kings of Comeback. In addition to the Finals games, they had rallied from series deficits of 3-1 and 3-2 in the first two rounds, and also won a road Game 7 to dethrone Chicago.
2015: Chicago (48-28-6, #4 in West) vs. Tampa Bay (50-24-8, #3 in East)
Result: Chicago in 6
Conn Smythe: Duncan Keith (D, Chicago)
Summary: It was perhaps the best Cup Finals of the modern era. No team led by more than one goal until the final five minutes of the series. The first five games were tied in the third period. No player scored more than two goals and neither team scored more than four in a single game, so it’s appropriate the Conn Smythe went to a defenseman. Duncan Keith finished with 18 postseason assists and he got the first goal of Game 6. When Patrick Kane gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead with 4:44 to go, at last someone could breathe easy.
2016: Pittsburgh (48-26-8, #2 in East) vs. San Jose (46-30-6, #6 in West)
Result: Pittsburgh in 6
Conn Smythe: Sidney Crosby (C, Pittsburgh)
Summary: Pittsburgh had beaten the league-best Washington Capitals and then won a Game 7 from Tampa Bay to get here. But San Jose made it competitive. The Penguins needed a late goal in Game 1 and an OT goal in Game 2 to win both. San Jose was able to grind out wins in two of the next three games though and get the series back home for a Game 6. Pittsburgh led 2-1 and sealed it with an empty-net goal. Matt Murray saved 92% of the shots fired at him in the playoffs and deserved to win the Conn Smythe.
2017: Pittsburgh (50-21-11, #2 in East) vs. Nashville (41-29-12, #8 in West)
Result: Pittsburgh in 6
Conn Smythe: Sidney Crosby (C, Pittsburgh)
Summary: It felt like a rerun of 2016, as Pittsburgh beat the league-best Washington Capitals in the second round and won Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Again, they faced an underdog from who made the Finals more competitive than expected. After the Penguins controlled home ice in the first two games, Preds goalie Pekka Rinne came up big with 50 saves on 52 shots to win Games 3 & 4. Once again though, Pittsburgh regained control. They peppered Rinne for a 6-0 rout in Game 5, then Murray spun a 2-0 shutout to seal the repeat in Game 6.
2018: Washington (49-26-7, #3 in East) vs. Vegas (51-24-7, #3 in West)
Result: Washington in 5
Conn Smythe: Alex Ovechkin (F, Washington)
Summary: There were fresh faces in the Finals. Washington overcame a legacy of postseason disappointment. Vegas was the most successful expansion franchise in sports history. The Golden Knights took Game 1 at home and looked like a team of destiny. But the Caps won Game 2, the first Finals win in team history. Then they controlled their home ice to get command of the series. Trailing the fifth game 3-2, the Caps got a third-period goal from Devante Smith-Pelly, who sprawled across the ice to tap the puck to an empty net. Another goal minutes later gave Washington its long-awaited moment.
2019: St. Louis (45-28-9, #2 in West) vs. Boston (49-24-9, #2 in East)
Result: St. Louis in 7
Conn Smythe: Ryan O’Reilly (C, St. Louis)
Summary: For the second straight year a franchise overcame a history of playoff shortcomings and got their moment. After losing Game 1, the Blues used an overtime win in Game 2 to get on track. Their physical play caused disruption in what had been a smooth-flowing Bruins offense. The ability of the bigger Blues to control tempo enabled them to win close games. While Boston got the two most decisive wins of the series in Games 3 & 6, it was St. Louis winning tighter-fought battles. They took Games 5 & 7 in the Boston Garden to hoist their first Cup.