Last night the Chicago Blackhawks were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs. That means that the 1998 Red Wings live on as the last team to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. It’s pretty much gotten to the point that we don’t expect to see the game team win twice in a row. The Blackhawks were not the favourites this year, just like the Penguins were not the favourites last year.
Looking back at every Stanley Cup champion since the lockout, again we find that the Red Wings are the only team that came close to winning the Cup in two consecutive years.
Last year the Pittsburgh Penguins lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Montreal Canadiens. While the majority of the 2009 championship team returned, the Penguins were missing defensemen Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill. To make matters worse, Gill was now a part of the Habs defense that smothered the Pens at every opportunity.
The Penguins weren’t the favourites going into the playoffs. They were expected to be competitive, but teams like the Washington Capitals and the eventual champion Blackhawks were considered front-runners for the Stanley Cup. The Penguins had weaknesses on defense that were exploited by the Canadiens and the Pens were eliminated from the playoffs.
In 2009, the Detroit Red Wings came as closing to winning back-to-back championships as we’ve seen in a while. The Wings took the Pittsburgh Penguins to seven games and without a last-second save by Marc-Andre Fleury they would have won the Cup. The Red Wings are perennial contenders and were considered the front-runners as the playoffs began. Adding Marian Hossa to an already impressive line-up made the Red Wings the favourites in 2009 and they almost pulled it off.
The Anaheim Ducks began the defense of their 2007 Stanley Cup victory with a match-up against the Dallas Stars in the first round of the 2008 playoffs. That’s also where their defense ended. The Ducks were without Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne for the majority of the season as both players contemplated retirement. They both ended up returning to the Ducks and the team finished fourth in the Western Conference. They were eliminated by the Stars in six games.
The Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup in 2006 when they defeated the Edmonton Oilers in seven games. But once the 2007 playoffs rolled around, both of those teams were already golfing. The Hurricanes were the first team since the 1938–39 Chicago Blackhawks to miss the playoffs in both the seasons before and after their championship victory. The Oilers haven’t been back to the playoffs since.
In this age of the salary cap and more liberal free agency, players leave teams on a regular basis. The Blackhawks lost Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg and others. The Penguins tried to defend their Cup without Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill. It’s becoming more and more difficult to repeat as Cup champions, which will make the feat even more impressive when it finally happens.