Best Teams Ever bracket: NHL edition, Final Four

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Welcome to the Best Team Ever bracket series, where the greatest of all time have their most dominant seasons stacked up against each other until we ultimately crown a champion in each sport. The tournament will be decided by fan vote, so be sure to submit yours below! Check out the first round of voting here and the second round of voting here. Final Four polls will close at noon ET on Saturday.

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We’re onto the third round in our “Best Teams Ever” bracket and the very best squads from four separate dynasties — and four of the top five ranked clubs heading into the tourney — have made it through, as the ‘85 Edmonton Oilers, ‘77 Montreal Canadiens, ‘83 New York Islanders and ‘92 Pittsburgh Penguins remain.

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Notably, two of the finalists — the Canadiens and Penguins — were coached by the legendary Scotty Bowman.

Our voters also made it clear that hockey’s greatest all-time teams, including the four remaining in our NHL bracket, were forged within a 15-year span between the late 1970’s and early 1990’s. The ‘85 Oilers and ‘77 Canadiens are generally regarded as the best two squads ever, and could be on a collision to meet in our final.

Best Teams Ever bracket: NHL edition, Final Four. (Yahoo Sports illustration)
Best Teams Ever bracket: NHL edition, Final Four. (Yahoo Sports illustration)

1984-85 Edmonton Oilers vs. 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins

No. 1: 1984-85 Oilers
Voted “Greatest NHL Team of All Time” in the league’s centennial celebration fan vote, these Oilers beat out another of Edmonton’s dynasty squads —the 1987 Oilers — in Round 2.

The Edmonton Oilers repeated as Stanley Cup champions and produced three major award winners in a record-breaking regular season. Wayne Gretzky won his sixth straight Hart Trophy and fifth consecutive Art Ross Trophy with 73 goals and 208 points, while also establishing the current postseason scoring record with 47 points in 18 games. Defenseman Paul Coffey won his first of three Norris trophies and Jari Kurri won the Lady Byng, while also matching the playoff record for goals in a single postseason with 19.

No. 5: 1991-92 Penguins
Sweeping Chicago to claim their second straight Stanley Cup and winning the final 11 games of the playoffs en route to the title summed up the magic featured on and around this team. This Pittsburgh unit outvoted the great ‘02 Red Wings in the second round after knocking off the ‘89 Calgary Flames in the first.

The 1992 Penguins featured maybe the greatest version of the great Mario Lemieux. He posted 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists) in 15 games for Pittsburgh, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP for the second straight year — becoming just the second player in league history to accomplish the feat. The Pens also became just the third team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups with a different coach (Scotty Bowman in 1992) leading the way.

1976-77 Montreal Canadiens vs. 1982-83 New York Islanders

No. 2: 1976-77 Canadiens
The Scotty Bowman-led team responsible for one of the all-time great regular seasons in NHL history — and the best version of the Canadiens’ 70s dynasty squads — had their way with the Cup-less 1996 Red Wings in Round 2 after crushing the 2010 Blackhawks in the first round.

En route to their second straight Cup, and fourth of six total championships in the 1970’s for Montreal, the Habs posted an absurd 60-8-12 record in the regular season before steamrolling their way through the playoffs with a 12-2 mark. Ken Dryden became just the fifth NHL goalie ever to post four shutouts in a single postseason, while Guy Lafleur — with nine goals and 26 points — took home playoff MVP honors.

No. 3: 1982-83 Islanders
The powerhouse New York Islanders of the early 1980s featured some superb squads, but the 1983 group was in a league if its own. In Round 1, they took down (in a landslide) a magnificent Anaheim Ducks team that posted a record 16-game unbeaten streak to start the season en route to its first Cup in 2007, before holding it down against the 1988 Oilers in the second round to get here.

While the Islanders were not the same team that they were in the previous three regular seasons, a remarkable run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs saw them prolong their dynasty — and delay another. The veteran Islanders swept the Oilers in Gretzky and Co.’s first-ever Stanley Cup Final appearance, holding the highest-scoring team in the league to just six goals.


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