It is the consummation of a long, grueling season of 82 games and a playoff run which takes you right into the heart of summer. It often features two teams of 23 men sporting enough facial hair to insulate an entire home. It always has helped to produce, if not solidify the status of a new hero, or villain. Yes, this is the Stanley Cup Finals, a glorified pastime which celebrates the incredible drive and passion of two franchise’s on the cusp of the ultimate team success in sport.
Obviously in order to even reach the finals is quite an achievement for any franchise, and can only be done so if teams receive some legendary if not extraordinary performances from their stars, and even some lesser known individuals.
Now some men have excelled through the history of the stanley cup finals, winning multiple titles such as Maurice Richard, Jacques Plante, Syl Apps, Terry Sawchuk, Red Kelly, George Armstrong, Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, the list goes on Yzerman, Lidstrom and so forth. These are the greats, the stars who shone brightest when the stage was at its highest level, the ones whom for generations upon generations will be remembered as more than athletes to those lives which they affected.
However, it can’t always be roses and butterflies for all involved, somebody does have to lose. While legends are born through success and stardom at the highest stage in hockey, so are the legends of failure and heartache, missed opportunity and infamy. These are the true stories that are engrained in the minds of fans all over the NHL, the men who on the biggest stage in sports, fell flat on their faces when their team, and city needed them most.
During the ‘73-74 season Esposito had lead the Bruins with an astonishing 68 goals and 145 points, both league highs for the season. He led the Bruins into the playoffs continuing this scoring with seven goals and eleven points in the first ten playoff games. In the finals, however, he ran into Bernie Parent and the Broadstreet Bullies. Esposito was held to his lowest point total in the Finals of his career with only two goals and an assist. A far cry from his usual self, Esposito’s lack of scoring was a big reason the Flyers walked away winners of their first ever stanley cup in team history.
After a breakout second NHL season with 47 goals and amassing 106 points, Malkin’s second playoff stint was alot better than his first. He tallied nine goals and 19 points with a +5 rating through the first three rounds, looking nearly unstoppable in a sweep and a pair of five game series wins for the Pens. However, in his first taste of the Finals he was only able to muster a single goal and a pair of assists with a -2 rating as the Penguins lost to the much more seasoned Detroit Red Wings.
13) Roberto Luongo in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals
After another stellar season in Vancouver having won 38 games and posting a goals against just above two, Luongo led the Canucks on a deep playoff run. In the finals they met head-to-head with the less skilled, more grimy Boston Bruins. However, Luongo struggled against the non-offensive B’s. Albeit he was one win away from helping the Canucks hoist the Cup, Luongo’s stats were awful. He sported an 8.05 goals against average in the three road games in Boston with a .773 save percentage. His off again, on again antics unfortunately would cost the Canucks a title when he faltered in game seven allowing the Bruins three goals on just twenty shots. Thus, resulting in his inclusion in the worst finals performances of all-time.
12) Marian Hossa in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals
Hossa rode into the 2009 finals against his former team the Pittsburgh Penguins, with his former rivals from the past season’s finals, the Detroit Red Wings. He came in off another 30+ goal season and compiled himself a nice six goals and 12 points with a +5 rating through the first three rounds. But in the finals, a year removed from three goals and seven points in just six games at this point last year, he was only able to produce a measly three assists upon his return as the Wings would go on to lose the series in seven. Hossa went from a focal point in the series to an afterthought rather quickly. Lucky for Hossa, he has since reached the finals and restored himself as a playoff performer with three stanley cup rings to boot. But in 2009, he was nowhere to be found.
11) Olaf Kolzig in the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals
In the run up to the 1998 finals it was hard to find someone who looked more brilliant between the pipes than Olaf Kolzig. In 17 post-season games he recorded four shutouts and a goals against below two. However, once he and his Washington Capitals reached the finals against the powerhouse Red Wings, Kolzig’s star quickly faded and gave way to eventual Conn Smythe nominee Chris Osgood. Olaf struggled to find the same form that brought his team to the cusp of a championship and his 3.25 goals against average only proves that he was unable to truly make the key plays that his team needed in the biggest moments.
10) Eric Lindros in the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals
After missing 30 games due to injury and still posting 32 goals and 79 points in his shortened season, Eric Lindros was on a roll heading into the playoffs. He continued his hot streak with 11 goals and 23 points in the first 15 games or three rounds of the playoffs. Culminating in his hat-trick over the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, in the finals against Detroit he could muster only one goal and two assists during a four game sweep at the hands of the Wings. A big drop off at a big time from the Big E.
9) Ed Belfour in the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals
After making a name for himself during the 1990-91 season with 41 wins, Belfour lead the Hawks on a deep playoff run the very next season. He excelled in the playoffs, producing a goals against of two exactly, with a shutout, while leading the Hawks to back-to-back series sweeps in rounds two and three. In their visit to the finals against the juggernaut Penguins, Belfour’s magic ran dry. Chicago would be swept away in four games, while Belfour struggled to the tune of a 3.70 goals against and an .875 save percentage. One positive to take from this lackluster performance was the birth of the ‘Dominator’ as Dominik Hasek made himself known around the league while playing clean-up to Belfour’s mess in the finals.
8) Guy Carbonneau in the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals
After accustoming himself into the NHL as a top six forward for the Canadians in the mid-80’s, Carbonneau showed his playoff grit by earning a ring with the team in the 86 finals win over Calgary. Three years later, after a solid first three rounds of the post-season, collecting four goals and nine points through 15 games, Carbonneau and the Canadians once again faced the Flames in the finals. This time around, he had zero impact. He was held scoreless over the six games and produced a -3 rating. Its safe to say that Calgary was not willing to let Guy get a feel for the series, or any type of offense for that matter.
7) Joe Nieuwendyk in the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals
Nieuwendyk was coming off a 2nd cup victory and a Conn Smythe trophy win as he entered the 2000 NHL season. He once again would help Dallas to reach the post-season and was once again expected to be a major factor in their success or failure of obtaining a cup. Through the first three rounds Joe compiled a respectable six goals and nine points with a +2 rating. These stats were nothing special in comparison to his previous post-season, but his finals were about to solidify that statement. Six games later, just one goal, a finals series loss and a -4 later and Joe had gone from hero to dud in just one post-season and was on his way out the door.
6) Michael Peca in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals
The young, gritty captain totalled the second highest goal and point total on the young sabres during the 1998-99 season. In the playoffs peca led the sabres through the first three rounds with 12 points, and his grit and heart truly lead them into the finals. Unfortunately, once he arrived there, Peca’s game became very quiet. He was never as dominant defensively, or offensively as he was prior to the series, and his one measly goal with -3 rating across six games clearly provides the details on such a failed performance.
Neely had built himself into a star for the Bruins through the mid-80’s and by the 89-90 playoffs he was a key catalyst to a deep Boston playoff run. Neely collected a fantastic 12 goals and 24 points in the opening rounds of the playoffs and also sported a +7 rating in just 16 games. However, in the finals Neely went ice cold, only mustering four assists in a five game series loss to the Oilers. It was an unfortunate appearance in the finals for a player who had such a wonderful but also unfortunately short career.
Although he is and will go down as one of the greatest captains of all-time in NHL history, it still doesn’t mean he can avoid our list of worst final performances. His performance in the 1995 finals was one to forget, or in this case, remember. After totalling four goals and 11 points in the first 11 games of his post-season, Yzerman headed a powerhouse Wings team into the finals against a lowly New Jersey team. Nevertheless, the Wings captain could only summon one assist in the series as his team was swept away at the hands of the upstart Devils, leading Stevie Y to join our list.
3) Ilya Kovalchuk in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals
Kovalchuk has always been a highly skilled offensive star. During the 2011-2012 campaign he again registered 35+ goals and 80+ points. During the playoffs, he even turned it up a notch, recording 18 points in just the first 17 games while notching seven goals. Still, once in the finals upon the grand stage Kovalchuk shrunk out of the spotlight. He would amass one goal, no assists and a -3 rating in the Devil’s six game loss to the champion L.A. Kings. For all intensive purposes, Kovalchuk may have very well already checked out of the NHL on his way to Russia by the time the series started, but that’s something we will never truly know.
2) Rick Nash in the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals
Rick Nash’s 2014 finals was awful, in all honesty his entire 2014 playoffs was nothing to write home about. Nonetheless, Nash with all of his skill and expectations provided some decent if not below average play in the Rangers first three round victories. Once in the finals though, Nash really, really stunk. he was held pointless in the five game series against the Kings, unable to solve Jonathan Quick. Even after posting a +3 rating heading into the finals, his defense stunk, as he turned right around into a -3 player. It’s safe to say, in the biggest spotlight Nash laid one of the biggest zeros.
1) Dany Heatley in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals
Its hard to argue with this as number one. After a season in which he posted a second consecutive 50 goal season and 105 points overall, Dany heatley was expected to be a big part of the Ottawa Senators playoff run. At first, it started terrifically, Heatley compiled six goals and fifteen assists through the first three rounds of play, leading all post-season scorers headed into the finals. Still, he found a way to muck it all up. In the finals against Anaheim he would come crashing down to earth, collecting one goal and zero assists in the 5 game series loss to the Ducks. After 21 points in three consecutive 5 game series victories, Heatley produced the quietest, ugliest and overall worst performance of any star in the Stanley Cup Finals. It should also be noted, that this signified the start of the incredible downfall of one Dany Heatley into the abyss, for where he has now been lost for nearly a decade.