The NHL playoffs are filled with upsets, but the Tampa Bay Lightning losing in the first round is one of the biggest surprises in NHL history.
The Lightning won the Presidents’ Trophy this year with the best regular season record and most points in the league. Tampa Bay won 62 games and piled up 128 points, which was 21 points clear of both Boston and Calgary. The Bruins and Flames were also bigger favorites and trail in their opening round series 2-1 as of Wednesday.
The 62 wins by the Lightning tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the most during a regular season in NHL history. The Lighting also swept the Columbus Blue Jackets during the regular season 3-0, outscoring them 17-3.
None of that matters now.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) April 17, 2019
But don’t be too sad, Lighting fans. The Red Wings didn’t win the Stanley Cup in 1996, either. However, they did win a series and advance to the conference finals.
In fact, the best teams ever during the regular season in MLB (2001 Mariners, 1906 Cubs), NFL (2007 Patriots) and NBA (2015-16 Warriors) also never won a title those years. But none of them lost in the opening round of the playoffs.
Historic upset by the odds
When the playoffs started, No. 1 seed Tampa Bay was made a -425 moneyline favorite over No. 8 Columbus (+310). No other series price had a favorite greater than -220, yet the Lightning not only lost in the opening round but were swept in four games.
Tampa Bay was the biggest series favorite in the NHL since 2010 when the Washington Capitals (-645) and Pittsburgh Penguins (-430) were favorited over the Montreal Canadians in the opening two rounds. Montreal won both series as a huge underdog before losing in the conference finals.
Columbus had never won a playoff series since joining the NHL in 2000. The Blue Jackets first made the playoffs in 2009. The emotions in Columbus are running high, as were the odds against them to win the series against Tampa Bay.
No bets on a Blue Jackets sweep were placed at FanDuel Sportsbook, either, where odds were 45-1. However, several customers placed bets on Columbus to win the series before Game 1, and even more placed bets at +134 after Columbus took a one-game lead, according to a company spokesperson.
Who will take the Cup?
The Lightning were a prohibitive favorite to win the Stanley Cup at +195 odds prior to the playoffs at FanDuel.
— The Duel (@TheDuelSports) April 8, 2019
Now that Tampa Bay is eliminated, FanDuel has adjusted the odds to win the Stanley Cup and the New York Islanders (+550) are the new favorite as of April 17.
The odds will change again following the completion of all the first round series. But it looks like there will be more surprises. Columbus will get a chance to pull off another upset when they play either Boston or Toronto next round. But for now, history will show the Blue Jackets sweep over the Lightning was one for the record books.