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Stanley Cup Playoffs

Read about the Stanley Cup Playoffs and memorable outcomes.

The Stanley Cup is passed on each year to a new winning team. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
The Stanley Cup is passed on each year to a new winning team.

Each year, the Stanley Cup Playoffs honor the National Hockey League (NHL) Playoff Champion with an ice hockey club cup trophy. The Stanley Cup, also referred to as The Cup, has a rich history dating back to 1892. Unlike other professional sports league trophies, a new Stanley Cup trophy isn't made every year; it is annually passed along to the new winner.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs were originally known as Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup. The name Stanley Cup Playoffs originated from Lord Frederick Stanley, who was a hockey enthusiast and appointed governor general of Canada in 1888. The history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is unique because every player on the winning team gets to carry the cup for a day.

When the Playoffs Take Place

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are held annually. The schedule typically lasts from May to June every year, with the playoff games being televised. Historically, some of the playoff games have been held earlier in the year. The first game was held on March 17, 1894.

Where the Playoffs are Held

The first Stanley Cup Playoffs game was held in Canada. Home ice is granted to the highest-ranking teams in the playoffs.

How the Playoffs Work

According to the NHL, the Stanley Cup Playoffs annually award the Stanley Cup to the team that wins the playoffs of the NHL. The NHL ranks the teams for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the conference is divided into two conferences with three divisions—an Eastern Conference and a Western Conference. There are three playoff rounds within each conference. The conference winners go to the Stanley Cup finals.

According to ESPN, the first-round NHL playoff matchups are based on the current NHL standings. Based on who wins the playoffs, teams are seeded in the first round one, two and three. Then, the next best five teams are ranked four through eight, based on the total number of regular season points. Home ice is given to the highest-ranking teams one, two, three and four. Teams are then matched up from top to bottom. In later playoff rounds, teams are re-seeded after each NHL playoff round according to the same criteria used for the opening round.

Most Memorable Playoff Games

ESPN recognizes some the most memorable Stanley Cup Playoffs:

March 24, 1936 Red Wings vs. Montreal Maroons

The longest Stanley Cup playoff game was brought to an end when Mud Bruneteau scored the games only goal in a 1-0 win over the Montreal Maroons in the opening game of the Stanley Cup semifinals.

April 23, 1950 Red Wings vs. New York Rangers

The Red Wings took the Stanley Cup eight minutes into double overtime when Pete Babando scored the winning goal. The 4-3 win in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals was the first time a seventh game of the finals went to overtime.

April 21, 1951 Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens

Bill Barilko scored 2:53 into overtime to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 win in this fifth game of the Stanley Cup finals. All five games in the series went into overtime. The 24-year-old Barilko won four Cups in five seasons with the Leafs.

April 23, 1964 Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings

Bobby Baun, who finished his NHL career with 37 goals in 964 games, scored the winning goal in this game in less than two minutes into overtime in Game 6 of the of the Stanley Cup finals. Early in the game, Baun left with a broken ankle, but he returned to score the winning goal. The Leafs won their third straight Cup when they beat Detroit 4-0 in Game seven.

May 10, 1970 Boston Bruins vs. St. Louis Blues

Boston won its first Stanley Cup in 29 years when Bobby Orr scored the Cup-clinching overtime goal during the first minute of overtime.

May 24, 1980 New York Islanders vs. Philadelphia Flyers

This game marked the first of four straight Stanley Cups for the New York Islanders when Bob Nystrom scored the winning goal at 7:11 of overtime to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in six straight games.

May 5, 1986 Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers

In Game 3 of the 1986 conference finals, Patrick Roy, a 20-year-old rookie, helped to take the game for Montreal after making save after save in overtime including 13 in a row at one point.

May 12, 1986 St. Louis Blues vs. Calgary Flames

Described by some as the most memorable game in St. Louis Blues history, the Blues' Doug Wickenheiser beat Mike Vernon to cap the team's comeback in less than eight minutes into overtime. St. Louis stormed the comeback with three goals in the final 12 minutes of regulation, sending the game into overtime.

May 27, 1994 New York Rangers vs. New Jersey Devils

The Eastern Conference finals were a back-and-forth series that went to a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. With the Rangers staring down 54 years of disappointment, player Stephane Matteau scored the winning goal for the Rangers four minutes into the second overtime.

April 24, 1996 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Game 4 of the conference quarterfinals was characterized by ups and downs. It was the fifth-longest game in NFL history. In the final minute of the fourth overtime, Petr Nedved scored the winning goal for the Penguins.

May 4, 2000 Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

During the 2000 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, in the fifth overtime, Keith Primeau scored the winning goal with a high wrist shot that ended the longest game in recent NHL playoff history. The goal came at 92:01 of overtime play.

June 10th, 2000 New Jersey Devils vs. Dallas Stars

The New Jersey Devils scored their second Stanley Cup in a double overtime game when Jason Arnott drove the winning goal into the net. Arnott is the 15th and last player to have scored a Cup-winning overtime goal.

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