A Brief History of Conference Final Blowouts

With Saturday's emphatic 7-2 win over the Canadiens, the Rangers crossed into relatively rare territory. Since the 2004 lockout, only a handful of conference final games have ended in such a lopsided score. In fact -- if you don't mind the extreme obscurity of this stat -- this was the first time in the post-lockout era that a road team has won the opening game of a conference final series by 5 or more goals (hooray?). I don't intend to draw any meaningful conclusions from the following. I only thought it would be fun to see how the series turned out in these other few instances.

May 15th, 2007: Detroit 5, Anaheim 0
The Red Wings pounded the then-Mighty Ducks on the road to take a 2-1 series lead in their conference final matchup. Dominik Hasek pitched a 29-save shutout for the Wings, while the Ducks pulled their starting goalie J.S. Giguere after giving up 3 goals in 23 minutes of play. He was replaced by Ilya Bryzgalov, who must have seen a bear on his way to the net as he gave up another goal only 17 seconds later. This game proved to be an aberration, however, as Anaheim won the next 3 games to close out the series, and then went on to beat the Ottawa Senators in 5 games to win their first ever Stanley Cup.

May 18th, 2008: Pittsburgh 6, Philadelphia 0
Martin Biron left the gate open in this game, as he was lit up for 6 goals en route to a decisive Penguins win and an exclamation point on their 4-1 series victory. Philly was never really in this one, dropping into a 3-0 hole in the series and giving up their first goal only 2:30 into the game. Pittsburgh was rewarded with 5 days of rest, but evidently heard the word "rust" and didn't score a goal in their next two games, eventually dropping the championship series the Red Wings 4 games to 2.

May 23rd, 2009: Pittsburgh 6, Carolina 2
The Pens walloped the 'Canes pretty badly in this game, sweeping the conference final series and going on the win the Cup against Detroit. We don't need to talk about this one.

May 24th, 2009: Detroit 6, Chicago 1
The Wings rode playoff burly man Marian Hossa to this game 4 laugher of a win because he is so much clutchier than Rick Nash. The game was so far out of reach that Ty Conklin came in to play the 3rd period. Detroit won game five 2-1 to advance to the finals, where they lost to Pittsburgh.

May 16th, 2010: Philadelphia 6, Montreal 0 || May 20th, 2010: Montreal 5, Philadelphia 1
6 different Flyers scored in game one to set this series off to a raucous start. Michael "Leaky" Leighton tightened up for a 28-save shutout. Brayden Coburn scored the eventual game-winner 3:55 into the first period. Philly also took game 2 at home by a score of 3-0, once again keeping noted sniper Scott Gomez off the stat sheet (all jokes aside, Gomez did actually finish the playoffs with 14 points in 19 games). Not to be outdone, the Canadiens punched back with a 5-1 win in game three, restoring some semblance of competitiveness to the series. The feeling was fleeting, though, and Montreal was shut out 3-0 again in game 4, and lost the series in game 5. The Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup finals where they were defeated 4-2 by the Blackhawks.

May 18th, 2011: Vancouver 7, San Jose 3
By far the closest contest you'll see on this list, the Sharks and 'Nucks were tied 2-2 after one period, and Vancouver led 3-2 after two. The Sharks, looking to tie the series up at one game apiece, fell to pieces in the third giving up 4 consecutive goals. When the dust settled, the Canucks had netted 7 goals, 4 of which came on the power play. The game also saw its fair share of the nasty stuff; 92 penalty minutes were accrued between the two clubs, with 68 of those coming after Vancouver had taken a 6-2 lead. The Sharks did recover to take game three of the series, but fell in 5 games. The final 3 games were decided by a total of 4 goals. The Canucks advanced to the Stanley Cup but were beaten by the Bruins in 7 games (sidenote: one of those games was an 8-1 loss).

June 3rd, 2013: Boston 6, Pittsburgh 1
Finally, we come to last year's lockout-shortened season. The Bruins rode into the Consol Energy Center looking to take a decisive 2-0 series lead back home to Boston. They did just that, throwing down 4 goals in the first period. Brad Marchand opened the scoring all of 28 seconds into the game, and the Bruins potted their 4th with 9 seconds left in the first period against backup goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Boston swept the Bettmans out of town to advance to the championship series, where they were stymied by Chicago in 6 games. After this schadenfreude-filled beatdown, games 3 and 4 were decided by scores of 2-1 and 1-0, respectively.

So Wes, you're saying that we're definitely going to sweep Montreal and win the Cup, right?

Yes! Wait, I mean no. I've gotta stop mixing those two words up. In a word, I'd say game one's result means precisely diddly for our chances of winning the series. Although the team handing out the business advanced to the Stanley Cup finals in all but one of these series', the remaining games were often as close as you'd expect playoff hockey to be, and only one of them actually won hockey's Holy Grail. While this limited history may indicate that the Rangers are probably the better team here, this is still a game played by humans, and one where almost anything can happen. Given that the Rangers' win was the only game in this category to occur in the series opener, I would certainly caution against overconfidence. If the Rangers can keep their egos in check and continue putting the puck in the net while King Henrik stops every shot from upon his throne, we may just find ourselves competing for the greatest prize in all of sports.

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