Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A brief history of the Conference Finals

Ever the sportsman, Chara decided he wouldn't hit the
guy until he’d given him a chance to stand up.

The Conference Finals are underway, and so far they haven't exactly been the most entertaining. The Penguins and Bruins may be headed for a sweep, and the Hawks and Kings have so far served up a predictable series of home team wins. While there's still time for some excitement, so far the two series haven't served up much.

That's unfortunate, and it's also at least somewhat rare. Over the years the Conference Finals have often proven to be the most interesting round of the NHL playoffs, and have featured some of hockey's most enduring moments.

Let's take a look back through the NHL history book at some memorable Conference Finals matchups.

1979 - Don Cherry's Bruins take a too-many-men penalty during game seven against the Habs, which must be some sort of call that they've since taken out of the rulebook according to current Penguins players who are pretty sure the Bruins have been using an extra guy this entire series.

1989 - Ron Hextall earns a 12-game suspension after charging from his net and viciously attacking Montreal's Chris Chelios. Or, as an entire generation of Philadelphia sports fans will grow to refer to it, "the most sensible thing a Flyers goalie has ever done in my lifetime".

1993 - While it's normal to want to celebrate taking a 3-2 series lead with a little bit of music, the Maple Leafs will later regret asking Wayne Gretzky if they could borrow that piano he's been carrying around on his back.

2000 - Scott Stevens cements his status as the league's hardest hitter on a devastating open ice check on Eric Lindros, and by "status" we mean "shoulder pad" and by "cements" we mean "fills with actual cement".

1980 - The Islanders sweep the Rangers in a series best remembered for Denis Potvin's folksy and self-effacing demeanor in the face of adversity, we assume, since MSG fans spent the rest of his career chanting "shucks" at him.

2002 - The series turning point between Colorado and Detroit comes when the Red Wings score on a goal mouth scramble while Patrick Roy is frantically waving his arm in the air. Critics initially accuse the Avalanche goaltender of hot-dogging, although he'll later explain that he just overheard someone ask "Who wants to coach a hopeless last place team in about ten years?"

1988 - Proving that absolutely anything can happen in the playoffs, the NHL witnesses the world's only known instance of somebody being unhappy about being offered a delicious donut.

1999 - The Maple Leafs lose to the Sabres in five games after realizing there's no point fighting and clawing their way back from a 3-1 series deficit to force a game seven just so the hockey gods can make something even more horrible happen.

1996 - Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins lose a seventh game to Scott Mellanby and the Florida Panthers and wait that can't be right I'm pretty sure somebody has been messing with Wikipedia again.

1994 - Facing elimination in New Jersey, Rangers' captain Mark Messier tells the assembled media "I guarantee we're going to go in and win Game 6, and bring it back here to the Garden for Game 7, and then you're all going to beat this moment into the ground for two straight decades", although everyone later agrees to just leave that last part out.

2007 - Daniel Alfredsson scores in overtime to eliminate the Sabres, although he'll later come to regret bragging so much to Chris Phillips about how much fun scoring a series-winning goal can be.

1996 - Detroit players are reluctant to shake Claude Lemieux's hand after his hit on Kris Draper, marking the last time he'll ever cross paths with the Red Wings without being enthusiastically offered a series of right hands.

1978 - The Canadiens easily sweep the Maple Leafs for the first of two consecutive years in a playoff matchup that's so dull and anti-climactic that everyone agrees they have no interest in ever seeing it again, a young Kerry Fraser assumes.

1991 - Ulf Samuelsson's game three body check on Cam Neely marks the turning point as the Penguins come back from a 2-0 series deficit to beat the Bruins, mutters Douglas Murray innocently as he circles photos of Milan Lucic's knee with a yellow highlighter.

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  1. I beg to differ. The Pens/Bruins series has been highly entertaining. Thus far, the highly touted Penguins have been shut down, which has led to massive amounts of frustration on the highly skilled offensive talents on the Pens. Penguins fans as well as many in the media didn't give the Bruins a breath of a chance to make a drip in this series, much less a huge splash. The only aspect of Sidney Crosby's game that's been elevated so far has been his whining at the refs anytime any Bruins looks at him sideways. It's also quite comical to listen to just how morose and mollified the NBCSN commentators were throughout Games 1 & 2. Quite frankly, the first time Crosby, Malkin or Iginla scores in this series (and I'm sure at least one of them will), the commentators are likely to have a bloody scoregasm on national television. It's obvious that the NBCSN broadcasters are caught up in the collective Penguins' lower intestine somewhere because they can't seem to bring themselves to give the Bruins any credit in shutting down one of the league's most potent offenses in not one, but two games... on the road.

    I fully expect the Penguins to turn the heat up after being embarrassed on their home ice. My hope is that no one is carted off on a stretcher due to either team trying to make a harsh statement.

    1. Bruins fans are so insufferable...
      bla bla bla nobody respects us, bla bla bla we're not dirty other teams are, bla bla bla other teams are p****ies for not wanting to fight lucic, bla bla bla marchand isn't a giant b**ch...

      seriously bruins fans, just shut up.

      signed: every single human being that has ever lived and isn't a bruins fan, as well as some that actually are bruins fans.

    2. There is no place for common sense and/or facts on this website.
      Good day to you sir.

    3. LOL! Insufferable fanbases - Vancouver Canucks (butthurt much?), Montreal Canadiens (WE HAVE 24 CUPS!!!!! But we've pretty much sucked since 1993 but who cares? WE HAVE 24 CUPS!!!!), Pittsburgh Penguins (we have the bestest of the bestest in offense... we're gonna pwn anyone and everyone on the ice)

      ALL fans of ALL sports teams *can* be insufferable. And "every single human being that has ever lived and isn't a fan as well as some that actually are fans" applies to any other team's fanbase.

    4. you're correct, every fan of every team *can* be insufferable.

      The point is the majority of fans of any teams are just fans, whereas the majority of bruins fans are front runners (where the hell were you guys as recently as three years ago?) and spend their time whining about... what exactly? your team won a cup recently, boston has HUGE national media coverage, your players are somehow regularly exonerated after attempts to injure, etc...

      so just stop complaining please.

    5. Matt Cooke is the exception to that in my opinion. Someone needs to bury that PoS into the corner.

    6. 3 years ago, the Bruins were choking against the Flyers. They learned from their mistake the next post-season. The "just fans" you speak of? The ones on their cell phones during the games, or playing Angry Birds? Or the ones who give free passes to every other teams' fans because you have a personal dislike for one team?

      Original Six teams tend to have the most "rabid" fans. All of the Original 6 teams have a slew of rabid fans. Other cities' teams have them, too (Vancouver, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton - they ALL have a ton of rabid fans).

      As for Matt Cooke, yup, I agree. He's right behind Raffi Torres in the POS department.

    7. Matt Cooke could easily become this series' Ulf Samulsson.

    8. @ 10:55 AM

      Hi. Canucks fan here. We're not "butthurt" (that word needs to go in the trash bin with "stay classy"). We're pessimistic, historically bitter and paranoid. Get your facts straight. GAWD.

  2. Hah! '96 Pens/Panthers made me laugh...then cry.

  3. I don't get the 1988 doughnuts comment...

    1. On May 6, 1988, Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld was pissed about Koharski's officiating during Game 3 of the conference finals, and after the final horn, hurried to the tunnel to confront him. Schoenfeld touched Koharski, Koharski fell, the two argued, and Schoenfeld unleashed the words that would live on in hockey lore:

      "You fell, you fat pig! Have another doughnut! Have another doughnut!"

    2. For a thorough breakdown of the "have another donut" incident, check the last section of this post:

  4. Chelios deserved much more than the thrashing he received from Hexy...of course, he turtled like the punk that he was.

  5. Glad the funny DGB is back. Thought I was reading Bob McKenzie there for a while (and I mean that with all the associated complimentary innuendo).

  6. The Fliers' goalies are...oh I see you've all beaten me to it

  7. Hi Mike, How are you doing with the Flyers and your buddy/best player in the world Claude Giroux out of the playoffs?

  8. I'll vote the '96 Det/Col one the best. Great stuff.