We’ve all heard the expression, “May the best team win.” But that’s not always the case in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Often, it’s the hottest team or the team with the best goalie that runs the table, leaving the favorite wondering what happened. Here are the five best teams that didn’t win the Stanley Cup.
2009-10 Washington Capitals (54-15-13) — Led by 50-goal scorer Alex Ovechkin, the 2009-10 Capitals blew away the competition during the regular season. Some may say they played in a weak division (the Southeast) and benefited from the shootout format, but they finished with 121 points, the most since the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately for the Caps, they blew a 3-1 series lead in a stunning first-round collapse against the Montreal Canadiens.
1981-82 Edmonton Oilers (48-17-15) — The 1981-82 Oilers were loaded. Future Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, who led the league in scoring with a staggering 212 points, Jarri Kuri, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey and Gran Fuhr formed a dazzling collection of hockey talent. But they never made it out of the first round of the playoffs, losing to the Los Angeles Kings in one of the most shocking upsets in NHL history. Lesson learned, the Oilers went on to capture four Cups from 1984-88.
1944-45 Montreal Canadiens (38-8-4) — There were only six teams in the league at the time, but the Canadiens finished the 1944-45 regular season with the best record in hockey. They boasted a roster with Maurice Richard, who scored an unprecedented 50 goals in 50 games, plus the Hart, Calder and Vezina Trophy winners in Elmer Lach, Frank McCool and Bill Durnan, respectively. But the Habs lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Semifinals. The Leafs went on to win the Stanley Cup.
1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins (56-21-7) — The 1992-93 Penguins were two-time defending Stanley Cup champions and boasted four 100-point scorers (Mario Lemieux, Kevin Stevens, Rick Tocchet and Ron Francis). Moreover, they finished the regular season on a 17-game winning streak and eliminated the New Jersey Devils in five games in round one. But the New York Islanders pushed the second-round series between the two teams to seven games and won it on David Volek’s overtime goal.
1995-96 Detroit Red Wings (62-13-7) — With all-time greats Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom and Coffey on the roster, the 1995-96 Red Wings won the Presidents’ Trophy with a league-record 131 points, but they were upset in the Conference Finals by the eventual champion Colorado Avalanche. Detroit has the dubious distinction of winning the PT four times without winning the Stanley Cup. But hey, these things happen when you make the playoffs 23 years in a row, like the Wings have to date.
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