If you know someone who still has a perfect bracket in the 2019 NHL Playoffs you might want to question their honesty, because nobody could have predicted the improbable happenings that occurred in the first round. For the first time in NHL history both of the top seeds (Tampa Bay and Calgary) were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Further, this was also the first time in NHL history that all four division winners were dispatched in the first round of the playoffs (Tampa Bay, Washington, Calgary, and Nashville). With all four of the top seeds being eliminated, it also marks the first time in NHL history that all four wildcard teams advanced to the second round.
The Columbus Blue Jackets finished with 30 less points and scored 67 less goals than the Tampa Bay Lightning, yet swept them in the first round. The results of the first round matchups were astounding enough, but the manner in which the teams won were equally astounding. The top two seeds in the playoffs won a combined one game. Tampa Bay was swept and Calgary lost four-straight after winning the first game of their series with Colorado. So, Colorado came back to defeat Calgary after being down in the series 1-0. They were one of the five winning teams in the first round that took the series in come-from-behind fashion.
Many of those games in the first round went to overtime. Consider that the first round featured three Game Sevens and 10 overtime games. There were only three Game Sevens and 10 overtime games in the entire playoffs last season. When the first round was over only two of the eight remaining teams were teams that were still alive in the second-round last season; Boston and San Jose.
Series victories by Colorado, St. Louis, Dallas, Columbus and Carolina marked the fourth time in the conference era (since 1974-75) that at least five lower seeds advanced past the opening round. This also happened in 1993: 6; 1999: 5; and 2013: 5).
The NHL has truly never seen anything like what happened in the first round. As stated above, the 1993 Playoffs produced six upsets in the first round, but two of the four division winners survived. The Boston Bruins won the Adams Division, but were swept by the lower-seeded Buffalo Sabres in the first round who had finished 23 points lower than the Bruins in the regular season. The Norris Division champion Chicago Blackhawks were also swept in the first round. They were swept by the St. Louis Blues who had finished 21 points below Chicago in the standings. Other upsets in the first round that season included Montreal over Quebec in six games, the New York Islanders over Washington in six games, Toronto defeating Detroit in seven games, and Los Angeles defeating Calgary in six games. That season ?s Stanley Cup Final featured the team that finished third in the Patrick Division, Montreal, against the team that finished third in the Smythe Division, Los Angeles. Of course, everyone in Pittsburgh remembers that the Islanders went on to upset the Penguins in the second round that season, eliminating the Penguins who had the best record in the NHL.
Getting back to the 2019 NHL playoffs. With so many of the familiar teams eliminated, a team that has not won a Stanley Cup in a long time or has never won one at all will be crowned champions. There will be a new Stanley Cup champion for the 19th time in the past 20 seasons. Of the eight teams that remain, only 24 players on their active rosters have won a Stanley Cup; that ?s just 15% of the total players left. Boston has most recently won the Stanley Cup of the teams that remain, with their last championship coming in 2011. Carolina last won it in 2006, Colorado in 2001, Dallas in 1999, and the Islanders in 1983 while San Jose, St. Louis, and Columbus have never won a championship.
With so many new teams into the second round, this is unfamiliar territory for the NHL. However, familiarity breeds contempt, so for the NHL this post-season is a breath of fresh air that is creating a whole new generation of fans.