2002 Detroit Red Wings
Back in the pre-salary cap days, when Ken Holland was considered a genius (that was a LONG time ago), the Detroit Red Wings responded to yet another disappointing first round playoff exit by loading up with future Hall-of-Famers.
Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille and Dominik Hasek joined Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan, Nicklas Lidstrom, and too many superstars to name to form the NHL’s version of a ringer team in 2002.
They rolled through the regular season with 51 wins, a President’s Cup Trophy, and went into the playoffs as clear-cut favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Their first-round opponents, the Vancouver Canucks, snuck into the playoffs as an eighth seed. They promptly stole the first game at Joe Louis Arena, 4-3 in OT. Then shockingly swept the Detroit portion of the first two games with a 5-2 win in Game 2.
Believing another first round exit was brewing, fans turned on the All-Star team. The Wings finally caught fire and rolled to four straight wins over the Canucks, and quickly dispatched the St. Louis Blues in the second round.
The next hurdle came in the conference finals against the bitter rivals, Colorado Avalanche. The teams traded wins for the first three games before Colorado won Games 4 and 5 to go back to the Pepsi Center up 3 games to 2.
The Avalanche had put the Red Wings out of the playoffs two consecutive times, and three out of four times they played in the postseason to that point. So it appeared as if the script had been set.
Yet, the Red Wings played perfect defense in their opponent’s building and repeated the feat two days later at the Joe. They won the West by winning two straight games by a combined score of 9-0.
Two weeks later, the Detroit Red Wings captured their third Stanley Cup in six seasons.