A high seed is no guarantee of success in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
From 2000-2010, four of the NHL’s regular-season champions did not make it through the first round of the post-season. Heck, the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup a few years ago as the eight seed.
This year, there are a handful teams in contention for the first seed in both conferences but that doesn’t mean they’re set for deep playoff runs.
Here are three top teams that could be ripe for a first round playoff upset:
Anaheim Ducks: Bruce Boudreau’s team is a potential Presidents’ Trophy winner, but there is skepticism surrounding the Ducks’ Stanley Cup chances. Despite the fact they have two top-notch, physical centremen and a solid tandem of goaltenders, both the traditionalists and advanced stats crowd are not big believers.
Anaheim has concerning underlying numbers (such as a below-average Scored Adjusted Corsi) and the eye test indicates similar issues. Combine that with the fact the Ducks could run into a strong possession team such as the Los Angeles Kings, or a team coming into the playoffs hot, like the Minnesota Wild, in the first round, it would hardly be a surprise if the Ducks were one and done.
Nashville Predators: The Predators have been one of the best stories of the season, but they have faded a bit. Nashville had a season-high six-game losing streak as part of 2-8-1 stretch this past month. They saw their once-promising offence begin to fade as well. During that skid, Nashville scored more than two goals just twice. The positives: The Preds have an elite goaltender in Pekka Rinne and a high-level defence corps. But a lack of experience — especially up front — is still a concern. They will need Filip Forsberg at his best. Nashville is 16-3-2 when Forsberg scores a goal this season.
Montreal Canadiens: It’s hard to knock the Canadiens for their play this season. The team has gotten a Hart Trophy-level performance from Carey Price and have an impressive goal differential, but at the same time they may be a bit too reliant on their goaltender based on their relatively unimpressive possession numbers. If Price isn’t at the top of his game, Montreal will have playoff issues – especially if they run into a hot team such as the Ottawa Senators, who have had success historically against the Canadiens. Montreal will certainly be favoured to advance past Round 1, but the underlying numbers are worrisome.