May 23, 2008

1989: Stanley Cup Stays In Alberta

The year is 1989. The Stanley Cup finally comes to Calgary.

For years the Flames were the 2nd best team in hockey, due to the divisional playoff format of the day, they would never get a chance to meet top dog and arch rival Edmonton in any dream Stanley Cup final. Instead the Battle of Alberta created many years of classic games, but almost always Oiler victories.

The Oilers were now lacking Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey, and Gretzky's Kings ensured the elimination of the Oilers in a memorable opening round showdown.

The Flames had their own memorable first round match up, as they barely escaped the pesky underdogs named the Vancouver Canucks. Goalie Mike Vernon's glove save off Stan Smyl on a breakaway in game seven overtime remains one of the most vivid memories in Stanley Cup history.

After surviving the first round, the Flames had few problems with the Kings and Blackhawks, meeting Montreal in the finals in a rematch of 1986. Only this time the result was very different.
Propelled by offense of Conn Smythe Trophy winning defenseman Al MacInnis, the Flames knocked off the Canadiens 4 games to 2, in the process becoming the first team in NHL history to defeat the Canadiens on Montreal Forum ice for the Cup. MacInnis, with his booming slap shot, scored 5 goals, including 2 game winners, in 6 games, leaving some suggesting his scary shot had spooked Montreal great Patrick Roy.

MacInnis' exciting slap shot was in heavy debate partially because both teams seemed intent on strategies of defensive suffocation. But the Flames were happy to match Montreal at that game, as this Flames team was as balanced as any champion in history. Joe Mullen, Joe Nieuwendyk, Doug Gilmour, Joel Otto and newcomer Theoren Fleury led the way. But the defining image of this series belongs to the old bushy-faced war horse Lanny McDonald scoring in the final game and finally hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup.

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