LOS ANGELES -- Two games and three overtime sessions. That's a pretty good indication that the 2014 Stanley Cup finals could be one of the classics. Especially if the New York Rangers can do what the Los Angeles Kings did and take care of their first two home games as this series shifts to New York.
It has been 20 years since Madison Square Garden hosted a Stanley Cup finals game, in a 1994 series that was an all-timer. So in honor of those 20 years, we asked 19 veteran media members -- one for each final (never forget the lockout) -- to rank their top five Stanley Cup finals series. Some of the panel had covered every single one of those finals, including ESPN's Barry Melrose and Steve Levy. Most had covered a majority of them, and a few are even in the Hall of Fame. We gave five points for a first-place vote, four for a second-place vote, right on down to one for a fifth-place vote. Here's the final tally for the top 10 Stanley Cup finals over the past two decades:
1. 1994: New York Rangers over Vancouver Canucks in 7
(75 points, 10 first-place votes)
This was the No. 1 pick for Barry Melrose, who along with Steve Levy has covered the past 20 Stanley Cup finals. Why this one?? "19-40!" Melrose answered, imitating the chant that used to taunt the Rangers. "It just meant so much to the city." This was the playoff run for the Rangers that included Mark Messier's legendary guarantee and "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!" There were also Mike Richter's heroics, including his save on Pavel Bure's penalty shot in Game 4. One panelist recalled just how electric the atmosphere was in Madison Square Garden for Game 7, when the Rangers clinched their first Stanley Cup since 1940. The image of Messier jumping up and down remains one of the most memorable of any Stanley Cup winner.
It was the first Stanley Cup for Sidney Crosby, who looked like he was ready to collect a few of them with a powerful young Penguins team. Each team took care of its first two games at home and the Red Wings appeared to seize the series with a crushing 5-0 win in Game 5, but a pair of 2-1 wins in the final two games prevented a repeat for Detroit. Marc Andre-Fleury's save on Nicklas Lidstrom in the final moments of Game 7 will go down in Penguins history as one of the best.
3. 2011: Boston Bruins over Vancouver Canucks in 7
(44 points, 3 first-place votes)
The storylines in this series were nearly as interesting as the games themselves. Villain Raffi Torres scored a goal with 18.5 seconds left in Game 1 to give the Canucks an early lead. Aaron Rome's hit on Nathan Horton raised the hatred between the two cities to new levels. Tim Thomas famously responded it wasn't his job to pump Roberto Luongo's tires. Alex Burrows bit a man. It was high theater. In the end, the Canucks' inability to put together any respectable result in Boston crushed their hopes.
4. 2013: Chicago Blackhawks over Boston Bruins in 6
(25 points, 1 first-place vote)