Hockey has been a breeding ground for underdog stories, and the NHL has been no stranger to longshots making deep runs in the postseason. In fact, Stanley Cup longshots have hoisted the trophy more frequently since the 2004-05 lockout.
The 2021 longshot story in the NHL has been north of the border. Montreal Canadiens odds gave the pride of Quebec little chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
Heading into the 2020-21 season, four preseason longshots with odds longer than +1500 (15-1) won the Stanley Cup since the lockout. According to Hockey Reference, only two teams from 1985 to the lockout won it all with odds longer than that.
Here are the top-five longest preseason oddds to win the Stanley Cup since those records started being kept in 1985:
T5. 2010-11 Boston Bruins, 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings: +1600
Heading into the 2010-11 season, the Bruins were recovering from heartbreak. In the season prior, Boston became the third NHL team to blow a 3-0 lead in a playoff series. The Bruins collapsed in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite 16-1 preseason odds, Boston rallied back to capture the three seed in the Eastern Conference for 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, winning the Northeast Division with 103 points. The Bruins needed seven games to survive the Canadiens in the first round, before exacting revenge and sweeping Philadelphia in the second round. Boston endured two more seven-game series in the conference and Stanley Cup Final, besting the Lightning and Canucks, respectively. In the final game of the season, the Bruins left no doubt in Vancouver, winning 4-0.
In the following season, it was the Kings that won the Stanley Cup at those same preseason +1600 odds. Los Angeles was coming off a first-round exit as the seven seed in the Western Conference. They were worse in 2011-12, heading into the postseason as the eight seed. Nevertheless, the Kings became the second eight seed to reach the Stanley Cup Final (2005-06 Edmonton Oilers) and the first eighth-seeded team to win the Stanley Cup. Despite their seed, the Kings still had respect with oddsmakers, entering the postseason at +2000 odds, not much longer than their preseason odds. Led by goalie Jonathan Quick, LA lost only four games the entire postseason.
4. 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning: +2500
At the start of the 2003-04 season, Tampa Bay was looking to rebound from a second-round playoff exit to the Devils. Despite its preseason odds as a franchise that had never won the Stanley Cup, Tampa Bay captured the top seed in the East as regular season conference champions, just three points behind the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings. The Lightning needed seven games in the conference finals to dispatch the Flyers and seven more to win its first title against the West sixth-seeded Calgary Flames.
T2. 1990-91 Pittsburgh Penguins, 2018-19 St. Louis Blues: +3000
The 1990-91 Penguins were coming off a season in which they failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Led by ‘Super’ Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh bounced back in the biggest of ways. The Pens won the Patrick Division with 88 points, but that still was only the seventh-most points in the league that season. Pittsburgh faced another longshot in the Final. The Minnesota North Stars were one of the last teams into the postseason with 68 points. Only the Vancouver Canucks had fewer regular season points among 1991 playoff teams. The Penguins beat the North Stars in six games to capture their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Similarly, the 2018-19 Blues were also looking to bring St. Louis its first Stanley Cup. The Blues did not reach the postseason the year before, and the 2018-19 season did not start smoothly. St. Louis began the season with the worst record in the league. In its first 37 games, the Blues had only a 15–18–4 record. The ‘Play Gloria’ phenomenon then unfolded. The rallying cry with a strange genesis preceded a franchise record 11-game winning streak and a 30-10-5 run to finish the season. The Blues then played the most postseason games in a single Stanley Cup postseason (27), before beating the Bruins in seven games to win it all. That was welcome news to one Blues fan who won $100,000 on a $400 bet, when the Blues in-season futures were 250-1, following the dismal start.
1. 2005-06 Carolina Hurricans: +6000
The longshot of all Stanley Cup longshots. When play resumed following the lost lockout season, not many gave the Hurricanes a chance. Carolina defied preseason odds to win the Southeast Division with 112 points and enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the two-seed in the East. The Hurricanes coasted through the first two rounds before requiring seven games to defeat the Buffalo Sabres in the conference finals and seven more to hoist the trophy against another longshot, the eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers were part of NHL history in the first round when all four series were won by the lower-seeded teams. Nevertheless, it was Carolina winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history at huge preseason odds.
Preseason Odds of Stanley Cup Champions Since 1985
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