Most Unlikely Stanley Cup Champions
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are arguably the most unpredictable competition in sports, with upsets happening not just in the early rounds of the playoffs but all the way through the Stanley Cup Final. And thanks to the unpredictable nature of hockey, there have been some teams with long odds to win the Cup at the start of the season that have found their way to glory. These three teams, in particular, overcame the longest pre-season odds to get their hands on the Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay Lightning - 2004
Tampa Bay had never won a Stanley Cup as an NHL team prior to the 2003-2004 season, and they were not expected to do so that season either. The team had odds of around +2500 to lift the Cup before the campaign started. But the Lightning caught lightning in a bottle, so to speak, when they ran through the regular season en route to the top seed in the Eastern Conference. In fact, the team played so well during the season that they were heavily favored in the Stanley Cup Final against the Calgary Flames.
That Stanley Cup Final series was an epic affair, with the Lightning able to get the better of the Flames in seven grueling games. And the star-studded Lightning, led by Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Brad Richards just had too much talent for a Flames squad led by a star in Jarome Iginla. Iginla tallied an outrageous 22 points for the postseason, including 13 goals despite being a marked man by the defenses he faced. But Iginla's efforts weren't enough, as the Lightning were able to cap off their surprising season with a Stanley Cup.
Carolina Hurricanes - 2006
The Carolina Hurricanes entered the 2005-2006 season at somewhere around +6000 odds to win the Stanley Cup. They managed to prove to everyone that those odds were far too long for a team of their quality, though, as they won their division and earned the second seed in the Eastern Conference after the regular season. And they continued to play well in the postseason, winning the Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers.
Carolina faced some serious pressure in the Eastern Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final, going to a deciding seventh game in both series. But they managed to thrive in spite of that pressure, with the Canes able to do just enough to knock off the eighth-seeded Oilers. Their hot start in the series helped them claim the Cup, as the Hurricanes won games one and two by a combined score of 10-4, with five goals in each of the first two games of the series buoying them.
Boston Bruins - 2011
Boston's rise to the top of the heap of American sports cities was helped greatly by the rise of the Boston Bruins in the 2010-2011 season. With the Patriots having a dynasty, the Celtics having a formidable team, and the Red Sox having recently broken their curse, the Bruins needed to join their sporting compadres with a championship. And they did just that, despite coming into the season at +1600 odds to win the title.
They did so by beating the Vancouver Canucks in seven games, with the deciding game going Boston's way in a 4-0 thrashing in Vancouver. Boston was clearly the better team in the series despite the series going seven games, scoring 23 goals to just 8 for the Canucks. Thanks to a bone-crushing defense led by Zdeno Chara and the hot goaltending of Tim Thomas, the Bruins were able to help solidify Boston as the city of champions despite their long odds.