What's more exciting than watching the fastest game on ice? Watching the fastest game on ice during the postseason.
Hockey fans will all agree that the regular NHL season is nothing more than a dress rehearsal for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Unlike the old days when the overwhelming majority teams made the postseason every year, it's a tougher task in today's NHL to qualify for a playoff berth, and once you're there, it takes four grueling, best-of-seven series to capture the coveted Stanley Cup, and players will do anything and everything to make the most of that opportunity. Some good, and some bad.
Here we list 5 of the most memorable moments from NHL postseasons past, that will forever be etched in the memories of fans for years to come.
No. 5--April 30, 1986, Calgary Flames v Edmonton Oilers--It was a game that most Edmonton fans would like to forget. So would one of the NHL's top defensemen Steve Smith , who will always be remembered for accidentally knocking the Edmonton Oilers out of the 1986 playoffs with an own goal in the third period of Game 7 of the Smythe Division final against the Calgary Flames. Smith's cross-ice clearing pass from behind the Oilers goal line, caromed off of goaltender Grant Fuhr's left skate and into the Edmonton net ending the Oilers playoff hopes.
No. 4 -- May 25, 1989, Calgary Flames v Montreal Canadiens--NHL veteran, 36-year old Lanny McDonald would corral a pass from Joe Nieuwendyk, before snapping off a shot that rocketed over the left shoulder of Habs' goalie Patrick Roy and into the top corner, as the Flames beat Montreal 4-2 in the sixth and deciding game of the Stanley Cup finals. Calgary became the only team other than the Canadiens to win the Stanley Cup at the venerated Montreal Forum.
No. 3-- May 29, 1993, Los Angeles v Toronto Maple Leafs--Of Wayne Gretzky's 50 record hat tricks, perhaps none were more meaningful than the three-goal brace in Game 7 of the 1993 Campbell Conference finals. Not only would it be the "Great One's" eighth postseason hat trick of his career, and would establish a new NHL record previously held by Montreal Canadiens' legend Maurice Richard, but it would be enough to advance the Los Angeles Kings to their first and only Stanley Cup final.
No. 2 -- June 9, 2001, Colorado Avalanche v New Jersey Devils --Winning one for the Gipper was exactly what happened on the evening of Saturday, June 9, 2001, when vaunted defenseman Ray Bourque finally hoisted the Stanley Cup after 22 seasons in the NHL. Even though Bourque would conclude his career with numerous NHL records, including most all-time goals (410), assists (1,169), and points (1,579) by a defenseman, prior to being traded to Colorado, the "Secretary of Defense" was facing the prospect of retiring without a championship title to his credit. But after an unsuccessful 2000 season, he decided come back for one more round, and capped off his more than two decades as anchor along the blue line, as the Avalanche beat the New Jersey Devils in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. Even non-Colorado fans had to celebrate this win.
No. 1-- May 29, 1996, Detroit Red Wings v Colorado Avalanche-- While Colorado's Claude Lemieux is one of only eight NHL players to win the Stanley Cup with three different teams, he will always be remembered most for his disgraceful hit-from-behind on Red Wings centre Kris Draper in Game 6 of the 1996 Western Conference finals. The notorious incident, which left Draper with a concussion, broken jaw, cheek and orbital bones, also tarnished Lemieux's status as one of the most prolific playoff scorers in NHL history. It also served to ignite a long and bitter rivalry between the Red Wings and the Avalanche that still boils during playoff time today.