The Hawks are set to battle the Sharks, 2 and 1 seeds respectively, for the Western crown. On the other side of the pond, er, league, the Habs just beat the Pens. An 8 seed moves on. They await the completion of the Bruins/Flyers, seeded 6 and 7. The Habs have a chance to match up with the Flyers in the Conference Finals and both those teams had to wait till the last day of the season to find out they were in the playoffs. Crazy. I decided to do a little research and found 2 other Conference Final matchups that had some unlikely participants.
To the jump!
Not too long ago, 2006 saw the West get all topsy turvy. In the East, all higher ranked seeds (1-4) advanced to the second round, but the West, each lower seed advanced (5-8). It led to a Western Final featuring the 6th seeded Ducks and the 8th seeded Oil.
The Ducks were buoyed by excellent play of then goalie Ilya Bryzgalov whom recorded the 4th longest shutout streak in the playoffs when he didn't let up a goal for 229:42. Impressive. Joffrey Lupul tossed in a 4 goal game in the second round. Notable skaters: Niedermayer, Kunitz, Selanne, and the very young Getzlaf and Perry (both turning 21 during the playoffs).
The Oil knocked off the Wings (a 1 seed) mainly due to Legace not being the Dominator and Chris Osgood not even sniffing the ice in a series that only lasted six games. Savoring scum failure...mmm, oh yeah...hold on, one moment. After that they took care of the Sharks after being down 0-2, chased Toskala once, and sent Joe Thornton packing. Dwayne Roloson was solid. Notable skaters: Pronger, Smyth, Horcoff, Hemsky, Peca.
The Oil solved Bryzgalov and dispatched the Ducks in 5, moving on to the Cup Finals. There, they took the Hurricanes to game 7 and that is even after Roloson suffered an injury in Game 1, forcing Craig MacTavish to go to Ty Conklin mid-game. MacTavish then started Jussi Markkanen, whom started during the season before a trade brought in Roloson and Markkanen filled in admirably. He even registered a shutout in Game 6 to postpone elimination, but alas, the Canes hoisted the Cup.
This year again, the West was crazy as it was the 7th seeded Ducks, against the 6th seeded Wild.
The Ducks had the Wings in round 1. This was the series when Luc Robataille "won" game 1 for Detroit in OT...Wings players went to the locker room only to be called back after a goal review showed the puck didn't even dent the netting, just the crossbar. After things got settled down Paul Kariya scored the game winner in the third OT and the Ducks went on to sweep. Savoring scum failure again...savoring...savor it damn it, ahh. The Ducks then moved onto the Conference Finals after getting slightly 'Giggy' with it against the Stars. More "Giggy" to follow. Notable skaters: Adam Oates, Kariya, Rob Niedermayer, Sykora.
The Wild and Andrew Brunette end Patrick Roy's career. (Did the world know HD then?!) Then they dispatched the Canucks in the second round. The Wild were using Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson throughout the season, both saw ice time in the playoffs. Notable Skaters: Brunette, Gaborik, Dupuis, Cliff F'in Ronning, Willie Mitchell
In the conference finals matchup, J.S. Giguere became the only person to ever win the Conn Smythe before the Cup Finals started. Giguere was 122-for-123 in the series, 122-for-123 in the series, 122-for-123 in the series, not a typo, a robust .992 save percentage. Most Impressive. Ducks advanced to the Finals in 4. In the Cup Finals, this is the one where Brodeur scores on himself when his stick slipped out of his hand in Game 3 (I apologize for the bad vid there, only one I could find). It went seven and Giguere won the Conn Smythe, despite being on the losing team. Someone fact check me, pretty sure the only person to have done that. (EDIT: He was the 5th player to do so. 4th Goaltender. Roger Crozier, Glenn Hall, Reggie Leach, Ron Hextall, Jean-Sebastien Giguere)
Devils = Cup Champs.
Cool stuff. Hope some people have fun remembering some of that. Kind of cool too that each Cup champion was the other conference's number 2 seed...hmmm