The Stanley Cup Playoffs are always an exciting time for hockey fans and it all builds up to the final series: The Stanley Cup Finals. That said, sometimes, the finals ends up being a stomp and one team destroys the other without any sense of a close competition. But not these times. For this list, I looked only at the post-expansion finals, that is, 1968 finals and on. Part of the reason for this is that when you go back far enough, especially back into the early 30s and earlier, the playoffs were a much different game. From 1968 and on, the playoff format was stable, at least in the finals (not so much in earlier rounds). Note that I did not only consider 7-game series and you’ll see several series that didn’t go the length on here. I took into account several things such as goal disparity and overtime games as well. Without further ado, let’s look at the bottom five of my picks for the Top 10 Closest Post-Expansion Stanley Cup Finals!
10. 1989 Finals, 4-2, Calgary Flames [W] vs Montreal Canadiens [L]
Right off the bat, we have a series that didn’t hit the full seven games. Despite this series ending in Calgary’s favour after six games, the games were all close and Calgary never had a dominant victory over the Canadiens, winning by at most just two goals. Game three featured a double overtime victory for Montreal in which Ryan Walter scored the winning goal.
9. 1974 Finals, 4-2, Philadelphia Flyers [W] vs Boston Bruins [L]
The 1974 Finals was the first time an expansion team ever won the Stanley Cup, but it didn’t come easy. The Flyers had to best the powerful Boston Bruins and it came to a 1-0 victory in game 6 to take it home for Philadelphia. Each team had one dominant victory during the series, but aside from that, the games were close. The first game featured a frantic ending in which the Flyers nearly scored at the end of the third before Bobby Orr and the Bruins went the other way to score with little time remaining. Game two featured overtime in which Flyers captain Bobby Clarke scored the winning goal.
8. 2006 Finals, 4-3, Carolina Hurricanes [W] vs Edmonton Oilers [L]
Our first 7-game series on the list was very similar to the 1974 Finals in that each team had one dominant victory (5-0 in game 2 for the Hurricanes and 4-0 in game six for the Oilers), but aside from that, the series featured only close games. After going up 3-1 in the series, the Hurricanes had a chance to win it all in game five as the game headed into overtime with the teams knotted up at 3-3. Fernando Pisani scored a short-handed heart breaker against the Hurricanes to keep the Oilers’ hopes alive, though they would eventually fall 3-1 in game seven.
7. 2010 Finals, 4-2, Chicago Blackhawks [W] vs Philadelphia Flyers [L]
The 2010 Finals was a surprisingly offensive one, likely due to the absence of any star goaltenders. Both teams ran largely off their offense and defense instead of goaltending, so goal numbers were inflated over the usual ones for the era. This series featured two overtime games, the first occurring in game three when the Flyers’ forward Claude Giroux scored the game-winning goal to give Philadelphia it’s first win in the series. Game six would again head into overtime, where Patrick Kane would score the Cup-winning goal in sudden death to give the Blackhawks their first Cup in 49 years.
6. 2009 Finals, 4-3, Pittsburgh Penguins [W] vs Detroit Red Wings [L]
The 2009 finals is a statistical anomaly. It’s the only Stanley Cup Finals where the winning team actually scored less goals than the losing team. Pittsburgh scored just 14 goals over the 7-game series, whereas the Red Wings scored 17, largely bolstered by their 5-0 win in game five. Despite the hard loss in game five, the Penguins came in clutch for two consecutive 2-1 victories in game six and seven to take home their first Cup in 17 years and exact revenge upon the Red Wings for their victory against them in 2008.