Photo: Sporting News
After the Florida Panthers clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth on the third to final day of the regular campaign, the team came back from a 3-1 first-round series deficit to down the greatest regular-season team of all time in the Boston Bruins. After the stunning defeat, NoVa Caps looks at some of the biggest upsets in the postseason since 2010.
2010 — #8 Montreal Canadiens over #1 Washington Capitals in First Round
After Washington finished at least 18 points higher than everyone else in the Eastern Conference standings, including 33 more than Montreal, and took Games 2 and 3 at Bell Centre by a combined score of 11-4, Montreal came back from a 3-1 series deficit. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak pitched 37 (.974 save percentage), 53 (.981), and 41 (.976) stops in Games 5-7 and held Washington to just one goal in each of those games despite his team scoring only eight. Halak was able to slide past Washington captain Alex Ovechkin despite him scoring five goals and 10 points in the series. Montreal also upset the Pittsburgh Penguins, who finished with the third-best record in the East, in the second round.
2012 — #8 Los Angeles Kings over #1 Vancouver Canucks in First Round
Presidents’ Trophy-winning Vancouver had 16 points more than Los Angeles, who locked down their postseason ticket with three days to go in the regular season, but Los Angeles took both of the first two games of the series by a score of 4-2 each time. Los Angeles held off Vancouver and won Game 3 at current day Crypto.com Arena, 1-0, behind a 41-save shutout by goaltender Jonathan Quick, who also threw a 46-save performance in Game 2. Vancouver was able to avoid getting swept with a 3-1 win in Game 4 and led 1-0 entering the third period of Game 5 but Los Angeles scored the next two to close out the series behind a 26-save performance by Quick. Los Angeles ultimately won the Stanley Cup, going 16-4 and upsetting all three Western Conference divisional winners (St. Louis Blues, Arizona Coyotes) along the way.
2019 — Wild Card #2 Columbus Blue Jackets over #1 Tampa Bay Lightning in First Round
Tampa Bay tied an NHL-record with 62 regular-season wins and finished just four points behind the all-time benchmark. They took a 3-0 lead in the first 17:50 of Game 1 against Columbus but they yielded four straight, including three in 6:09 of the third period to drop Game 1. From there, it started deteriorating for Tampa Bay as they were blown out by a score of 5-1 in Game 2 and fell short by a 3-1 count in Game 3. They came back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits in Game 4 before Columbus broke the tie with 1:14 left in the second period. Three empty-net goals would make the score more lopsided than the game actually reflected. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky pitched a .932 save percentage and 2.01 goals-against average in the series. This was the first time Columbus, who entered the NHL in 2000, had won a postseason series. The team then lost to the Boston Bruins in six games during the second round.
2023 — Wild Card #2 Florida Panthers over #1 Boston Bruins in First Round
Boston set the league record for most wins (65) and points (135) in a single season during the regular campaign. Meanwhile, Florida finished 43 points back of Boston. Boston outscored Florida, 16-9, in the first four games of the series. Florida took leads three times in Game 5 and held off comebacks from Boston each instance, winning 4-3 in overtime. After taking the lead twice in the third period of Game 6, Boston allowed three unanswered goals in the final 9:11 to send the series back up to New England. Florida rode the momentum, taking a 2-0 lead early in the second period of Game 7. Boston responded with three straight goals and took a 3-2 advantage less than five minutes into the third period. The game would go to overtime after Florida tied it with a minute to go. Florida would win it just 8:35 into the extra session. Left-wing Matthew Tkachuk earned five goals and 11 points in the series.
The fact that Florida upset the greatest regular-season team of all-time is a reminder that the 82-game slate does not mean much as long as your team gets into the dance of 16. Next season could see teams not as focused as much on regular-season performance rather than just playing a strong team game and getting into the postseason. Once you get do, anything can happen!
By Harrison Brown
There’s a reason I use the term “halaked” for any major sports upset. Although now the hockey pundits say “goalied” for getting stopped by a hot goalie. Although I think “halaked” has a better ring to it and it still sounds like something you would not want to see happen to a team you root for even if you never had heard of Jaroslav Halak.
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