1996 Stanley Cup playoffs
The 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs, the championship of the National Hockey League (NHL), began in April, 1996. The sixteen teams that qualified, eight from each conference, played best-of-seven series for conference quarterfinals, semifinals and championships, and then the conference champions played a best-of-seven series for the Stanley Cup. These playoffs are noted as being the first playoffs in which all Canadian teams were eliminated after the first round. The New Jersey Devils, who had won the cup the year before, missed these playoffs. This is the first and only time to date that all three California teams missed the playoffs. This is also the first time that both Florida teams made it to the playoffs.
The playoffs ended in June with the Colorado Avalanche sweeping the Florida Panthers in both team's first ever Finals appearance. It was Colorado's first ever Stanley Cup championship, in their inaugural season. In the previous years, they were known as the Quebec Nordiques and played in Quebec City. Joe Sakic was named playoff MVP, and awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.
For the second time in three years, and the last time until 2013, every Original Six team would reach the playoffs.
|Conference Quarterfinals||Conference Semifinals||Conference Finals||Stanley Cup Finals|
|1||Philadelphia Flyers||4||1||Philadelphia Flyers||2|
|8||Tampa Bay Lightning||2||4||Florida Panthers||4||
|2||Pittsburgh Penguins||4||Eastern Conference|
|3||New York Rangers||4|
|4||Florida Panthers||4||2||Pittsburgh Penguins||4|
|5||Boston Bruins||1||3||New York Rangers||1||
|(Pairings are re-seeded after the first round.)|
|1||Detroit Red Wings||4||1||Detroit Red Wings||4|
|8||Winnipeg Jets||2||5||St. Louis Blues||3|
|1||Detroit Red Wings||2|
|6||Calgary Flames||0||Western Conference|
|4||Toronto Maple Leafs||2||2||Colorado Avalanche||4|
|5||St. Louis Blues||4||3||Chicago Blackhawks||2|
- During the first three rounds home ice is determined by seeding number, not position on the bracket. In the Finals the team with the better regular season record has home ice.
† Last playoff game at USAir Arena.
* First playoff Game at Molson Center.
** First Playoff game at Fleet Center
* Last NHL playoff, NHL and Original Winnipeg Jets game at Winnipeg Arena
† Last Playoff game at Maple Leaf Gardens
* Last Flyers and NHL game at the Spectrum
* Steve Yzerman scores in 2OT | valign="top" |
|Chicago vs. Colorado|
|May 2||Chicago 2||3 Colorado|
|May 4||Chicago 1||5 Colorado|
|May 6||Colorado 3||4 Chicago||OT|
|May 8||Colorado 3||2 Chicago||OT|
|May 11||Chicago 1||4 Colorado|
|Colorado wins series 4–2|
The 1996 Eastern Conference Final was the National Hockey League best-of-seven playoff series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers. The Florida Panthers won the series in seven games, and represented the NHL Eastern Conference in the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals.
The Penguins were coming off a dominating 5-game series win over the New York Rangers, while the Panthers had just completed an unlikely upset of the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers. The Penguins were looking to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1992, while the Panthers were playing in their first-ever Conference Finals.
Despite being outshot 33–25 in Game 1 at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, the Panthers came out on top with an impressive 5–1 win. Florida goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck made 32 saves and Florida forward Tom Fitzgerald scored twice.
The Penguins, wanting to avoid going down 2–0 against the Panthers, came out with a better Game 2 and won 3–2.
In Game 3 at the Miami Arena, the Panthers fired an incredible 61 shots on Penguins goaltender Tom Barrasso and it paid off as the Panthers won 5–2 to take a two-games-to-one series lead. Florida forward Stu Barnes scored twice.
Then, trailing 1–0 in Game 4, Pittsburgh tied the score on Brad Lauer's goal with 11:03 remaining in regulation. Bryan Smolinski scored the go-ahead goal with 3:31 to go to give the Penguins a 2–1 lead. This turned out to be the game-winner, as Pittsburgh hung on to win the game 2–1 and tie the series at two games apiece.
Leading the series three games to two, Pittsburgh looked to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals in Game 6 on Thursday, May 30 at the Miami Arena. The Penguins led 2–1 in the second period, but the Panthers scored three of the next four goals and edged the Penguins 4–3 to tie the series at 3–3.
The pivotal Game 7 on Saturday, June 1 at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, Florida got a 1–0 lead on Mike Hough's goal at 13:13 of the first period. After a scoreless second period, Pittsburgh tied the game on Petr Nedved's power-play goal at 1:23 of the third period. However, the Panthers regained the lead on Tom Fitzgerald's bizarre 58-foot slapshot at 6:18 and got an insurance goal from Johan Garpenlöv at 17:23. Florida hung on to win the game 3–1 and the series four games to three. John Vanbiesbrouck made 39 saves in the victory.
The 1996 Western Conference Final was the National Hockey League best-of-seven playoff series between the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche. The Colorado Avalanche won the series in six games, and represented the NHL Western Conference in the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals.
The Red Wings had just finished a seven-game series win against the St. Louis Blues, while the Avalanche were coming off a six-game series win against the Chicago Blackhawks. Detroit had the league's best regular-season record and were hoping to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second consecutive year. As a franchise, the Avalanche had not been in a Conference Finals since 1985, when they were the Quebec Nordiques and a member of the Prince of Wales Conference (now the NHL Eastern Conference), and were looking to advance to the Cup Finals for the first time ever.
The Avalanche won game two as well, 3–0. Colorado goaltender Patrick Roy stopped all 35 shots he faced.
Down two games to none, the Red Wings played solidly in game three at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver. Detroit defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Vladimir Konstantinov combined to score three goals (including a shorthanded goal by Konstantinov) and Detroit won 6–4.
In game four, the Red Wings outshot the Avalanche 31–17. However, Colorado won the game 4–2, thanks in part to 29 saves made by goaltender Patrick Roy. The Avalanche now had a three-games-to-one lead in the series.
Detroit played with desperation and determination in game five at the Joe Louis Arena on Monday, May 27. Inspired by Vladimir Konstantinov's big body check on Avalanche forward Claude Lemieux, the Red Wings went on to win 5–2. The series now stood at three games to two in favor of Colorado.
Game six at McNichols Sports Arena on Wednesday, May 29, became famous in the history of the Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry. At one moment during that game, Detroit forward Kris Draper was along the boards at center ice when Colorado forward Claude Lemieux checked Draper into the boards. The hit sent Draper to the hospital with a broken jaw and a shattered cheek and orbital bone, which required surgery and stitches. Draper did not return to play until the middle of the 1996–97 season. While Lemieux was assessed a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct match penalty for the hit, the Avalanche went on to win the game 4–1, and win the series. The controversial hit on Draper by Lemieux was a catalyst (along with a rough hit by Kozlov on Foote in game 3) for the Detroit-Colorado rivalry that lasted for years.
Stanley Cup Final
As of 2013, this is the last Stanley Cup in which both teams made their first appearance. The Florida Panthers had made it to the Final on their defensive strategy, but the Colorado Avalanche overcame the tight checking to win the series in a sweep.
|Colorado vs. Florida|
|Colorado wins series 4–0
and Stanley Cup
|Joe Sakic (Colorado)
wins Conn Smythe Trophy
1995 Stanley Cup playoffs
|Stanley Cup Champions||Succeeded by
1997 Stanley Cup playoffs