The best teams that didn't win the Stanley Cup

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April 14th, 2020

They didn't get to hoist the hardware, but these five NHL teams still left a mark. They were good, but not good enough.

Here are the five best NHL teams that did not win the Stanley Cup.

5. 1971-1972 New York Rangers

The Rangers came within two games of ending a 32-year Stanley Cup drought, but they were unable to beat a determined Bruins squad.

Jean Ratelle, Vic Hadfield, and Rod Gilbert each had morethan 40 goals that year, while goaltenders Gilles Villemure and Ed Giacomin combined for a 2.43 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.

In franchise history, only the 1993-1994 Stanley Cup champion Rangers and the 2014-2015 squad that made the conference finals had more than the 109 regular-season points this team compiled.

4. 2018-2019 Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning’s first-round exit in last year’s postseason was an absolute stunner.

Tampa notched the second-most points (128) of any President’s Trophy-winning team (first awarded in 1986) and had a +103 goal differential. Nikita Kucherov won the Art Ross Trophy with 128 points, including an NHL-high 87 assists. Brayden Point led all scorers on the power play with 20 goals, and teammate Steven Stamkos was close behind at 19. Andrei Vasilevskiy (39-10-4, 2.40 GAA, .925 save percentage) was the Vezina Trophy winner.

And yet the Blue Jackets swept the Bolts out of the first round.

3. 1974-1975 Buffalo Sabres

With one of the best top lines of all-time, the Sabres came close to delivering the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in just its fifth year of existence.

“The French Connection” — Rene Robert (100 points), Gilbert Perreault (96 points), and Rick Martin (95 points) — led the way to a 113-point campaign, which is still a franchise record (tied with the 2006-2007 team).

But the Flyers, thanks to some outstanding goaltending from Bernie Parent, defeated Buffalo in six games to secure their second straight Stanley Cup title.

2. 1970-1971 Boston Bruins

Boston righted this wrong the following year, but the Bruins’ first-round defeat at the hands of the Canadiens was a tough pill to swallow.

Led by legendary defenseman Bobby Orr, who won his second of three straight Hart Trophies, Boston tallied a franchise-best 121 points over a 78-game season and posted a +192 goal differential. Hall of Fame center Phil Esposito won the Lester B. Pearson and Art Ross trophies on the strength of a 76-goal season, while Johnny Bucyk posted a career-high 51 goals.

But Montreal, the eventual Stanley Cup champions, overcame a 5-1 second-period deficit in Game 2 of their quarterfinal matchup with the Bruins and got some excellent goaltending from Ken Dryden en route to a seven-game series upset.

1. 1995-1996 Detroit Red Wings

In the long, celebrated history of the Red Wings, no club produced more points than the 1995-1996 squad (131).

The team had it all — solid young talent (Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman), outstanding defense (Paul Coffey and Nicklas Lidstrom), and veteran presence (Igor Larionov and Dino Ciccarelli). Chris Osgood also put forth an excellent season between the pipes (2.17 GAA, .917 save percentage).

But the eventual champion Avalanche dashed Detroit’s dreams in the conference finals, which laid the groundwork for one of the NHL’s fiercest rivalries for a number of years. 

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