1999 Buffalo Sabres
This plucky team will be remembered forever because it lost the Final on Brett Hull’s toe-in-the-crease tally that won Game 6 in overtime. But the “No Goal” Sabres were really the no goals Sabres. Yes, Buffalo finished ninth overall in the NHL in the 1998-99 season, but it ranked 17th in goals-per-game with 2.52 and 21st in power-play efficiency at 13.5 per cent (though that mark jumped to 20 per cent in the playoffs).
The Sabres had just one player top 60 points in the regular season and that was 40-goal man Miroslav Satan. In the playoffs, their leading scorers were — I kid you not — defencemen Jason Woolley and Alexei Zhitnik, who had identical 4-11-15 lines in 21 contests.
All of this, of course, is the preamble to saying, when you had late-90s Dominik Hasek in goal, anything was possible. ‘The Dominator’ posted a .939 save percentage in the 1999 playoffs, lifting Buffalo to the Final one year after getting the squad to the East Final.
2010 Philadelphia Flyers
This is a bit of a stretch, but we had to get a team from this century on here. Philly finished 41-35-6 in a season that saw Peter Laviolette replace John Stevens behind the bench. The seventh-seeded Flyers actually had home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference Final because the only team worse than it — No. 8 seed Montreal — rode Jaroslav Halak’s goaltending to upset wins over the Capitals and Penguins.
This Flyers team fell in an 0-3 series hole to the Bruins in Round 2, then stormed back to rip off four straight wins. Philly even got behind 3-0 in Game 7 in Boston and managed to escape with a win.
In a Final versus the Blackhawks where neither team knew what it would get from its goalies — Philly had Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher, Chicago rolled the dice with Antti Niemi — the Hawks got a few more saves and won the series on Patrick Kane’s “I swear it’s in!” Game 6 overtime winner.
Post-expansion St. Louis Blues
Go ahead and attach your asterisks. For the first three seasons following the great expansion of 1967, the NHL slotted the Original Six in one division and the six new guys in another. As a result, a very over matched team was going to play in the Stanley Cup Final for each of those three years, and that club was the Blues.
St. Louis failed to win a game in that trio of trips to the Final, getting swept by the Canadiens in 1968 and ’69, before Bobby Orr flew through the air in 1970. The Blues relied on an all-time goalie battery to keep things close and while you tend to think of Glenn Hall backstopping this group in his twilight years, Jacques Plante also did some remarkable work in the Blues crease. He posted a .950 save percentage in 10 playoffs games at age 40 in ’69, then came back the next year at 41 and put up a .936 mark in six outings.