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Monday, May 16, 2022

Presidents' Winners & Defending Cup Champions

Since the inaugural offering of the Presidents' Trophy in 1986, awarded to the team with the best regular season record, its recipient has drawn the defending Stanley Cup champion nine times. The chart below shows each meeting by year, matchup and outcome.

Year        
Matchup                                                                  
Outcome
1988 Edmonton Oilersover Calgary Flames
4-0 (Q)
1992 Pittsburgh Penguinsover New York Rangers
4-2 (Q)
1998 Detroit Red Wingsover Dallas Stars 
4-2 (S)
2001 Colorado Avalanche over New Jersey Devils*
4-3 (F)
2002 Detroit Red Wings over Colorado Avalanche*
4-3 (S)
2011 Vancouver Canucks over Chicago Blackhawks*
4-3 (P)
2013 Chicago Blackhawks over Los Angeles Kings*
4-1 (S)
2017 Pittsburgh Penguinsover Washington Capitals 
4-3 (Q)
2022 Florida Panthers vs Tampa Bay Lightning*
TBD (Q)

* Defending Stanley Cup Champion
(P = Preliminary, Q = Quarterfinal, S = Semifinal, F = Final)

Of the eight meetings through 2021, four were won by the prior year's Stanley Cup champs (1988, 1992, 1998, 2017) and the other four saw the Presidents' Trophy winner prevail (2001, 2002, 2011, 2013). In the first three meetings, the winners went on to hoist consecutive Stanley Cups. Of the eight series winners, all advanced to skate in Stanley Cup Final with seven winning the Cup. Only Vancouver (2011) failed to hoist.

Tomorrow night, the ninth such series begins with the Presidents' Trophy winning Florida Panthers facing off against the defending Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, in the first ever playoff series featuring these Sunshine State foes.  If history repeats, there's a good chance the winner will advance to the Cup Final and likely hoist the Stanley Cup.

* See also NHL Consecutive Stanley Cup Wins.
* See also NHL Playoff Seeding And Stanley Cup Wins.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff First Round Upsets. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Battle of Alberta & NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

For the past four decades, the province of Alberta has hosted two NHL teams, the Edmonton Oilers (emigrating from the WHL in 1979) and the Calgary Flames (relocating from Atlanta in 1980). Separated by a mere 175 miles, these two franchises have forged one of the most intense rivalries in the game, playing hundreds of regular season games and five playoff series against each other, in what's known throughout the league as the "Battle of Alberta". The Oilers have qualified for the postseason 24 times, skating in the Cup Final seven times (1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990, 2006) and winning the Stanley Cup five times (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990). The Flames have also skated in the playoffs 24 times, cracking the Cup Final three times (1986, 1989, 2004) and hoisting once (1989).

To put the early years of these fierce provincial foes in perspective, both teams made the playoffs each year from their inauguration through 1991, with one of them skating in the Stanley Cup Final for eight consecutive years (1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990) and winning it six times during that span, spilling oceans of blood en route.

There were dark times too. Edmonton missed the postseason 18 times (1993-1996, 2002, 2004, 2007-2016, 2018, 2019), including a NHL record 10 consecutive postseason absences (2007-2016). Calgary failed to qualify for the playoffs 16 times (1992, 1997-2003, 2010-2014, 2016, 2018, 2021). 

Both missed the same postseason eight times (2002, 2010-2014, 2016, 2018), including seven of the past thirteen playoffs. On the other hand, both qualified for the same postseason 15 times (1981-1991, 2006, 2017, 2020, 2022), though it's only happened four times in the past 30 seasons (2006, 2017, 2020, 2022).

In terms of head-to-head playoff matchups, the Alberta teams have locked horns five times (1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1991). Edmonton has won all but one such series (1986), owing to a spectacular Steve Smith own goal, with the winner reaching the Stanley Cup Final four times (1983, 1984, 1986, 1988) and hoisting twice (1984, 1988) after such affairs.

Regarding other NHL teams facing both Alberta squads in the same postseason, only the Winnipeg Jets (1985, 1987), Los Angeles Kings (1989, 1990) and Anaheim Ducks (2006, 2017) have done it. To date, only the 2017 Anaheim Ducks have won series against both Alberta teams in the same postseason. 

Interestingly, when both Alberta sides have played the same opponent in a postseason, the victor has advanced to the Stanley Cup Final every time (1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, 2006) but once (2017), hoisting the Cup all but twice (2006, 2017).

For the first time in 31 years, the Battle of Alberta returns as both Edmonton and Calgary won their first round series in a deciding Game 7 to meet in the second round. Game on!

Today In NHL History - Pronger Elbows Holmstrom

On May 15th in 2007, Anaheim Ducks notorious blueliner Chris Pronger delivered a vicious elbow to the head of Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom midway through Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.

Pronger escaped penalty on the play but was subsequently suspended one game for the infraction. Defensive partner Rob Niedermayer collected a five minute boarding major for his role in the Norris sandwich.

Holmstrom returned after receiving 13 stitches, finishing the game with three points in a 5-0 win over the Ducks. Anaheim eventually dispatched Detroit 4-2 and went on to claim their first Stanley Cup.

That's today in NHL history.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Today In NHL History - Montreal Pregame Brawl

On May 14th in 1987, heavyweight Ed Hospodar of the Philadelphia Flyers incited a pregame brawl at the Forum attacking Montreal Canadiens sophomore Claude Lemieux prior to Game 6 of the Wales Conference Final.

Tiring of Lemieux and Shayne Corson's superstitious ritual of firing a puck into the opponent's empty net at the end of the warmup skate, Hospodar and Chico Resch returned to the ice to send a message.

Resch recalls: "I threw my stick to try and knock the puck away from him [Lemieux]. I was still in the mood that this was just fooling around. Hospodar took a different approach and he charged at Lemieux and he jumped him. I skated over and yelled at him, 'Ed, what are you doing?' And Lemieux looked up and said, 'Yeah Ed, what are you doing?'"

Et l'affaire en fran├žais.

The 11 minutes of ref-less mayhem delayed the faceoff by 17 minutes and drew $24,500 in fines. No penalties were assessed though Hospodar was suspended for the remainder of the playoffs. The Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals that night winning the game 4-3 and series 4-2.

That's today in NHL history.

Today In NHL History - Sylvain Lefebvre's Own Goal

On May 14th in 1994, Toronto Maple Leafs blueliner Sylvain Lefebvre scored an own goal with 3 seconds remaining in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinal against the San Jose Sharks when his clearing attempt struck teammate Peter Zezel and deflected past Felix Potvin.

Luckily for Lefebvre, the Leafs led 4-1 prior to the miscue and held on to win Game 7 by a score of 4-2, advancing to the Western Conference Final where they were eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks 4-1.

That's today in NHL history.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Today In NHL History - Hextall Hammers Chelios

On May 11th in 1989, Philadelphia Flyers ferocious goalie Ron Hextall attacked Montreal Canadiens defenseman Chris Chelios after play was whistled offside trailing 4-2 with 1:37 left in Game 6 of the Wales Conference Finals.

The 1987 Vezina and Conn Smythe winner come single season goaltender penalty minute record holder (113 minutes in 1989) pounced in response to Chelios' unpenalized elbow on Brian Propp ten days earlier.

Hextall received a five-minute major and match penalty coupled with a 12 game suspension commencing the following season. The Canadiens eliminated the Flyers that night winning the game and series 4-2.

Asked 20 years later if the pair had made amends, Hextall explained:

"No, we’re not friends. I've talked to him a few times. You know what, honestly, when the game's over, when your career’s over, you look back at guys like that and you respect them more than anyone else because he is a competitor. He’s one of the top competitors in the league. I look at a guy like that, would I like to have played with him? Damn right I would have. Those guys that are competitive, there's a respect there even if you can’t stand the guy. There's a respect there that never goes away. When I was standing at the bench in Detroit two years ago when we were in town who comes over to talk to me? He does. It’s in the past."
That's today in NHL history.