The 2023 Florida Panthers have been one of the more improbable Cinderella stories the hockey world has ever seen.
Their run continued when they eliminated the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final thanks to a from Matthew Tkachuk with just 4.3 seconds left in regulation. Tkachuk's goal tied Nick Metz of the Toronto Maple Leafs (1942) for the latest series-winning goal in regulation in NHL playoff history.
Now the Panthers are tied for the lowest seed to ever make it to the Stanley Cup Final and are the second Wild Card team to accomplish the feat since the postseason format was altered in 2014 to include two Wild Card teams. Their sensational run began by coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the top-seeded Boston Bruins, who were fresh off recording the most points in a single season in NHL history.
It marks just second time in franchise history Florida is Stanley Cup Final bound.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the lowest seeds to make it to the Stanley Cup Final throughout NHL history.
Nashville Predators (WC2, 2017)
During the 2016-17 season, the Nashville Predators made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. The Predators earned the second Wild Card seed in the 2017 postseason and became just the third No. 8 seed to make it to the Stanley Cup Final.
It was quite an impressive run for the Predators as they took down both of the Western Conference's No. 1 seeds, including sweeping the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round. Nashville defeated the Anaheim Ducks in six games in the Western Conference Final thanks a hat-trick performance from forward Colton Sissons in Game 6. The Predators ultimately fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in the Stanley Cup Final, but it was one of the more improbable postseason runs in league history.
Los Angeles Kings (No. 8, 2012)
The Los Angeles Kings are also in that conversation as one of the lowest seeds to ever advance to the Stanley Cup Final. The Kings qualified for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the No. 8 seed and became the lowest seed to win Lord Stanley's Cup in the process.
It was spectacular run to the Stanley Cup Final for the Kings and it got off to an impressive start. The Kings took down the No. 1 seed Vancouver Canucks in the opening round in just five games. Los Angeles followed that up with a series win over the St. Louis Blues and defeated the Phoenix Coyotes in five games to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. In fact, the Kings only lost two games before reaching the Stanley Cup Final.
The Kings finished off their unthinkable run by topping the New Jersey Devils in six games thanks to the sensational play of goaltender Jonathan Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy after registering a 1.41 goals-against-average throughout the 2012 postseason.
Edmonton Oilers (No. 8, 2006)
The Edmonton Oilers were the first No. 8 seed to advance to the Stanley Cup Final in NHL history. Much like the Kings and Predators in the ensuing years, the Oilers produced quite a dominant postseason back in 2006.
The Oilers put together an impressive run that began by taking down one of the juggernauts of the late 1990s and early 2000s in the Detroit Red Wings. Edmonton topped Detroit in the opening round thanks to a tremendous performance from legendary defenseman Chris Pronger, who registered two goals and five assists in the series. The Oilers went on to defeat the San Jose Sharks in six games in the next round before dominating the Anaheim Ducks in a five-game series victory.
Edmonton even gave an inspired effort in the Stanley Cup Final against the Hurricanes that came down to Game 7, but Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward shut the door in a 3-1 Game 7 win.
Philadelphia Flyers (No. 7, 2010)
The Philadelphia Flyers won back-to-back Stanley Cups in the mid 1970s and intimidated a great deal of their opponents along the way. However, it was a gutsier effort that allowed the Flyers to reach the 2010 Stanley Cup Final as a No. 7 seed.
The Flyers barely made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2010, as they had to win a shootout against the New York Rangers in the regular season finale in order to earn a playoff berth. After qualifying for the postseason, the Flyers were matched up with the New Jersey Devils in the opening round and came away with a series win in just five games. Philadelphia fell into a 3-0 series hole against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but rallied to win four consecutive games, including winning Game 7 after erasing a 3-0 deficit.
The Flyers steamrolled the Montreal Canadiens in five games, which was highlighted by Mike Richards' goal in Game 5. Unfortunately for the Flyers, their dream season would end in heartbreaking fashion as they fell at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup Final.
Anaheim Ducks (No. 7, 2003)
Another No. 7 seed took center stage during the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Anaheim Ducks rose to the occasion so many times. It was one of the more improbable runs that the sport that seen over the last 20 years.
The Ducks began the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs in convincing fashion as they swept the Detroit Red Wings, who were just one point away from earning the Western Conference's top seed during the 2002-03 regular season. It also marked just the second time in NHL history that the defending Stanley Cup champions were swept in four games in the first round the following season.
Anaheim followed that impressive showing up by taking down the top-seeded Dallas Stars in six games. The Western Conference Final pitted the Ducks against another Cinderella story in the No. 6-seeded Minnesota Wild. The Ducks proved to be the better team as they swept the Wild behind a mind-blowing effort from goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere. Giguere only allowed one goal in the entire series and produced arguably one of the most impressive postseasons in league history.
However, the Ducks fell short of hoisting the Stanley Cup as the New Jersey Devils edged them in seven games. For his ridiculous efforts, Giguere won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP and was just the fifth player in NHL history to earn the honor despite playing for the losing team.