25 years ago today, our beloved Calgary Flames had won their first and only Stanley Cup after a game six victory over the Montréal Canadiens. The 1989 Calgary Flames team was hands down the best roster that this organization ever had, with a perfect mix of veterans, young guns and depth all the way down the lineup. Now, after 25 years, we still honour them and remember the amazing season they gave us.
To start off the season, Calgary would trade away Mike Bullard after disappointing the team in the 1988 playoffs. This was also Theoren Fleury's rookie season, when he was called up from the farm team after the Flames went 1-5 in late December. Going into the playoffs, the Flames were coming off of the best season in franchise history as they won their second straight President's Trophy with 117 points and a 54-17-9 record.
Smythe Division Semi-Finals - Vancouver Canucks
The first round saw the Calgary Flames take on a familiar foe and division rival, the Vancouver Canucks. Despite having a winning % below .500, Vancouver didn't go down without a good fight in this series. In fact, Flames lost the first game 4-3 in OT as Paul Reinhart the, former Flame, got the winning goal.
Calgary did rebound however, defeating Vancouver with scores of 5-2 and 4-0, but the series lead was short-lived as the Canucks won game 4, 5-3 and tied it up. After the Flames shutout Vancouver 4-0 again in game five, the Canucks came back in game six to blast the Flames in a 6-3 victory, and send the series into game seven.
In game seven both teams played a tight game and it had to be decided in OT, with both teams tied 3-3 after regulation. In overtime, both goalies made spectacular saves, including Mike Vernon's famous breakaway save on Stan Smyl. Then, with time winding down in the extra frame, a shot from the point is deflected in by the one and only, Joel Otto, as the Flames survived and took the series 4-3.
Smythe Division Finals - Los Angeles Kings
After the heated series against Vancouver, the Flames would face the Los Angeles Kings after their comeback win against the Edmonton Oilers after they were down 3-1 in the series. In case you may not have known, the legendary Wayne Gretzky was playing for the Kings at this time and it was expected to be a battle of offense vs defense. Calgary took game one in a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory.
After that game the Flames absolutely crushed L.A. 8-3 in game two, and took games three and four with scores of 5-2 and 5-3 respectively. Flames sweep the Kings 4-0 and move on to the Conference Finals.
Campbell Conference Finals - Chicago Blackhawks
The next victim of the Flames, were the Norris Division champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago was able to upset a powerhouse Red Wings team that had players like Steve Yzerman, Adam Oates, and Gerard Gallant, and later defeat St. Louis in five to reach the conference finals. Calgary would easily take game one by a score of 3-0, but Chicago battled back and took game two 4-2, and tied the series.
That would be the only blemish in the series for the Flames as the won the next three games 5-2, 2-1, and 3-1. Calgary was able to contain the Blackhawks' offense and would take the series 4-1 as they move on to the Stanley Cup Finals and play the Montreal Canadiens in a rematch from 1986.
Stanley Cup Finals - Montréal Canadiens
The stage was set for a rematch of the 1986 Stanley Cup Finals, Calgary coming off a somewhat easy 4-1 series win over the Blackhawks, and the Habs coming off of a hard-fought 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The team that Flames GM Cliff Fletcher described as the best team he had ever built, was going to be put to the test once again, against the same team that upset them three years ago.
Looking at the stats of the Canadiens and Flames, you can see that Calgary had the offensive prowess in the series, and that Montréal was a 100% shutdown team. Even so, Calgary was still the better all around team as they were second in the league in goals allowed, first were the Habs.
The first game of the finals was in Calgary, and it was a 3-2 win thanks to a couple of goals from the blue-line anchor, Al MacInnis. Two days later, the Canadiens took game two by a score of 4-2 and evened up the series, as both the teams head to Montréal to play games three and four. After this loss, head coach Terry Crisp made the decision to scratch Lanny McDonald. The Habs would end up taking game three as well and the Flames dealt with heartbreaking 4-3 loss in overtime.
Going into game four, Calgary had a must-win mentality because they knew if they went down 3-1 in the series, Montréal could win it in five just like they did in 1986. So they came out, and won 4-2 to tie the series up 2-2 before they went back to Calgary for game five. In game five, the Flames came out with a great first period, up 3-1 and they were able to hang out and win with a final score of 3-2. This gave Calgary not only the series lead, but it gave Crisp the confidence to put Lanny McDonald back into the lineup. He felt that if the Flames were to win the cup, then Lanny should be on the ice, as it was his last season. He was also given the captain's "C" for game six, as he was one of the co-captains that season.
In game six, the game was tied 1-1 halfway through the second period. Then, magic happened. After serving a penalty, Lanny McDonald stepped out of the box, took a pass from teammate Joe Nieuwendyk on the right side, and ripped one top-shelf past Patrick Roy and gave Calgary a 2-1 lead in the game. The Habs did score later on, but two third period goals by Doug Gilmour lifted the Flames to a 4-2 victory in game six and their first Stanley Cup.
After the Flames won the cup, it was announced that Al MacInnis was the Conn Smythe winner, and by doing so he became the first defenseman in NHL history to win the award. Hakan Loob won the cup after announcing his retirement along with Lanny McDonald (that 'stache though) who also played his last season in Calgary's Championship year.
Just like that, the era of Lanny McDonald and Joe Mullen was over and the new (not so successful) era of Theoren Fleury and Joe Nieuwendyk had begun. Young Calgary Flames fans like myself have not watched 80s hockey, when the Flames were one of the top teams in the league and constantly dominated. So when you hear about it or watch short clips of it, it truly is amazing to see how the organization and the game itself has changed over a period of time. Yes, we are a different team now with the rebuild going on and everyone looking towards the future of the team, but it's always good to look back sometimes and experience the awesome hockey that used to be played.