The Los Angeles Kings shocked the world last postseason when they won the Stanley Cup as a No. 8 seed. However, maybe we should have seen it coming. We saw a distinct change in their demeanor late in the year after they fired head coach Terry Murray, hired Darryl Sutter and gathered some momentum before the playoffs. They finished their schedule on a 12-4-3 run and kept on rolling once the playoffs began.
If you take a look at the current NHL odds at Bovada, Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1) and Chicago Blackhawks (9-5) are heavily favored to win their respective conferences. However, in light of what the Kings pulled last year, let’s take a look at some teams that are gathering some steam as the playoffs approach, who might be able to surprise in the second season.
Not much was expected of the Capitals when they started the year with just 10 wins in their first 25 games, but something has clicked. For whatever reason, the light bulb has gone on, and they’ve played like the best team in the NHL over the last month. The Caps are 14-3-1 over their last 18 games and are currently riding an eight-game winning streak.
They made a second-round appearance last postseason, and if they keep this up, they could last even longer this time around.
New York Islanders
Who are we kidding, right? The Islanders, making a playoff run?
Laugh it up all you want, but the Isles have been one of the best teams in the NHL since the last week in March. The Isles have registered at least a point in 11 of their last 12 while winning nine of those games. It’s very unlikely that they’ll have home-ice advantage in any round in the playoffs, but that might not be as big of a hurdle for them as you might think. They have the East’s third-best road record.
A confident young team with an experienced, hot goaltender could be a recipe for success. It’s a lot to ask of the Isles but they do have lots of momentum right now.
St. Louis Blues
The Columbus Blue Jackets could be a team that fits our mold, but given their franchise’s history, we’ll be skeptical. Instead, our choice of a team in the West that’s gaining some momentum and is capable of pulling a surprise is the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues have been shaky this season, but they have recently resembled the stingy team that finished with the second-most points in the NHL last year. They’ve won seven of nine and have allowed just 12 goals in the process.
We’ll have to see how they finish up the season, but with Ken Hitchcock behind the bench and potentially dominant goaltenders in net, this is a team that could surprise a number of teams in the playoffs.