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May 28, 2008

1996: Changing Of The Guard

The year is 1996. It is the year of the rat.

The Stanley Cup finals see two non-traditional markets square off, as the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers battle for supremacy. The Avalanche swept the Cats 4-0.

Quebec's loss was Denver, Colorado's gain, as the old Nordiques franchise was relocated to the old home of the Rockies. The Nords/Avs were stacking a great team, headlined by Joe Sakic, Adam Foote, Mike Ricci and the line of Peter Forsberg, and playoff legend Claude Lemieux.

Oh. And they brought in Montreal goaltending legend Patrick Roy, a trade that certainly would not have happened had the franchise remained in Quebec City.

Sakic would win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, scoring a league best 34 points, including 18 goals, just one off of the single post-season record. Six of his goals were game winners.

The line of Forsberg-Kamensky-Lemieux was dominant, as was Roy in nets. He had a 2.10 GAA, with a minuscule 0.85 GAA in the finals. He had a .921 save percentage and 3 shutouts.

Lemieux was another strong playoff force, becoming the first player in 35 years to win consecutive championships with different teams. But Lemieux will forever be remembered for his dirty and vicious hit from behind on Detroit's Kris Draper during the nasty but memorable conference finals.

Uwe Krupp scored the memorable Cup winning goal. The decisive game 4 remained scoreless entering the third overtime period before Krupp's point slapper found its way past John Vanbiesbrouck.

"Beezer" was the main reason the team from Miami debuted in the Stanley Cup. Other than their goaltender and a young Ed Jovanovski, the Panthers truly were an overachieving group of journeymen.

The most famous of the Panthers was undoubtedly captain Scott Mellanby. Mellanby immortalized himself in Florida hockey and Stanley Cup lore when he killed a bothersome rat that frequented the Panther's dressing room. The story created the craze of throwing 1000s of plastic toy rats on the ice after every Florida goal.






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