Last night was the best and worst night of the National Hockey League season. It was the best because we all got to see the greatest championship presentation in all of sports when the Stanley Cup was awarded to the Pittsburgh Penguins and skated around the ice at Joe Louis Arena. It's the worst because now we have to wait a whole three and a half months until another meaningful hockey game is played.
What started almost two months ago is now complete for another year. The past eight weeks was yet another example of why the Stanley Cup playoffs are on another level when compared to the playoffs of other sports. The intensity, physicality and rivalries that fuel postseason hockey are the reason that the moments that resonate forever take place every spring.
As we say goodbye to the NHL playoffs, let's take a look at the best moments of this year's race for the Cup.
After the jump, Puck Daddy's top 10 moments of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs.
10. Detroit's wild ride to close out Columbus
Their backs were up against the wall in front of the home fans at Nationwide Arena. Despite being down 3-0 to the Red Wings, the Blue Jackets were not going to let their season end with a whimper. It was quite the back and forth game with Detroit holding a 3-1 lead and the 5-3 lead before Columbus forced another comeback. Kris Russell(notes) and Fredrik Modin's(notes) goals at the end of the second period tied the game at five heading into the third period. A controversial "too many men" call on the Blue Jackets gave the Red Wings a late power-play in which Johan Franzen(notes) tallied home the winner with 47 seconds left to end the series.
9. Kane's trick does in Vancouver
If Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinals didn't put Patrick Kane(notes) on another level, I don't know what will. A wild, six-goal third period ended with a pretty backhander by Kane that Roberto Luongo(notes) had no chance at. Luongo was lit up for seven goals with Vancouver's season on the line and had a horrible series against Chicago.
8. Talbot loses fight, wins war. Olczyk makes point
After staving off elimination in Game 5 of their opening round matchup against the Penguins, the Philadelphia Flyers came into Game 6 and took a commanding 3-0 lead early into the second period. The series at that point seemed destined to go the distance. Then, Daniel Carcillo(notes) decided to drop the gloves with Pittsburgh's Maxime Talbot and it was then, as NBC color man Ed Olczyk would never let us forget, that the game would change. The Penguins would score twice in the second period to tie the game and then Sergei Gonchar's(notes) goal early in the third period broke the tie for good.
7. Ducks, Wings give us only multiple overtime game
One thing that makes the Stanley Cup playoffs so great is the multiple overtime game. We've discussed the merits of whether or not the NHL should change the format to avoid marathon games (of course not) after some curmudgeon hockey writer poo-poo'd after Anaheim and Detroit went three overtimes in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinal. Shockingly, it was the only multiple overtime game of the playoffs. Guess all that guff wasn't worth it. Not all multiple overtime games are great, but Jonas Hiller(notes) and Chris Osgood(notes) made this one a memorable tilt. Hiller backstopped the Ducks with 59 saves.
It was one of the most highly debated hit of the playoffs. Suspendable? That's still being discussed, but it was enough to warrant a five-minute call for "interference" and a game misconduct. The hit sparked a Detroit comeback, but Chicago would cut the series deficit in half after Patrick Sharp's(notes) goal in overtime.
5. Gone in 80 seconds, New Jersey's season
Things were all but over inside Prudential Center in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal between New Jersey and Carolina. The Devils were about to advance and play the Washington Capitals in the second round, but then Jussi Jokinen(notes), who scored the winning goal with 0.2 seconds remaining in Game 5, tied things with 80 seconds to go. If that wasn't bad enough, Eric Staal(notes) gave Devils fans a "shot through the heart" and put home the game winner with 32 seconds remaining. It was a stunning turn of events for a New Jersey team that was a favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference.
4. Tortorella and fan have a water fight
Clutching to a 3-2 series lead, the New York Rangers self-destructed in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals thanks in part to their head coach, John Tortorella, who's bottle throwing incident with a Washington fan at Verizon Center was the story and earned him a one-game suspension. Things would get worse for the Rangers as they ended up losing their best penalty killer, Blair Betts(notes), to a broken orbital bone, thanks to a vicious hit from Donald Brashear(notes), who was handed a six-game suspension for his actions.
3. Walker suckers Bruins not one, but twice
When Carolina's Scott Walker(notes) cold-cocked Boston's Aaron Ward(notes) in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, it seemed like he was surely going to be watching Game 6 from the press box. Of course, this was at the mercy of the NHL's Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell and his arbitrary "Wheel of Discipline." Walker was not suspended and stuck the knife deeper into the hearts of Bruins fans when he scored the overtime and series winning goal 18:46 into the extra frame in Game 7. It was a bitter pill for Bostonians to swallow, but to help soften their feelings, Walker and the 'Canes were swept by Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference finals.
It was as if neither wanted to be outdone by the other. The two crown jewels of the NHL performing on a grand stage delivered a memorable performance in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal. Washington had taken Game 1, led by rookie Simeon Varlamov's(notes) stunning save on Crosby. Game 2 was their opportunity to put Pittsburgh's back against a wall.
1. Stanley shows up
There's no better championship presentation than the NHL's. The pile-on as soon as the clock runs out. The postgame handshake line. The awarding of the Conn Smythe trophy. And finally, handing the Stanley Cup to the winning team's captain for the celebratory skate. The NHL does plenty of things wrong, but this tradition is something that they always get right.