Underdogs Blue Jackets and Islanders Pull Off Dominating Upsets in NHL Playoffs

Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anthony Beauvillier of the New York Islanders
Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anthony Beauvillier of the New York Islanders celebrate (photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs are as wild and volatile as you’ll find in the postseason of any sport, and we’ve already watched some rather surprising upsets take place. Both of which came in the form of series sweeps, if you can believe it.

Blue Jackets with Thunderous Upset Over the Lightning

First, the Tampa Bay Lightning went down to the Columbus Blue Jackets in what was one of the biggest and most shocking upsets the NHL has seen in the first round. Tampa Bay was an all-time team in the regular season. The Lightning tied the record for most regular season wins, scored the most goals ever in the regular season and averaged a historic 3.96 goals per game, and finished a whopping 21 points ahead of anyone else in the league.

In the first round, Tampa Bay lined up with the Blue Jackets, who almost missed out on the playoffs altogether. The Lightning opened at -400 favorites to win the series, and that number ballooned to -500 at some books. The Blue Jackets opened as +300 underdogs.

Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning
Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning (photo credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Well, Columbus went into Tampa Bay and opened up the series with two victories on the opposing team’s ice. They then went back to Ohio and took the next two games to score a sweep. Not only was the sweep dominating, but Columbus scored 19 goals in the series to Tampa Bay’s 8.

According to MoneyPuck.com, which calculates odds for NHL teams, the Blue Jackets now have a 50% chance of reaching the third round and a 12.7% chance of winning the Stanley Cup. Entering the playoffs, MoneyPuck.com had Columbus’ chances at reaching the second round at 35.5%, reaching the third round at 17.4%, and winning the Stanley Cup at 3.9%.

At the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, the Blue Jackets were +3000 to win the Stanley Cup and +1500 to win the Eastern Conference entering the playoffs. As of Wednesday morning, Columbus was +700 to win the Stanley Cup and +350 to win the Eastern Conference.

Columbus now awaits the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs are currently up 2-1.

No Penguins Allowed On This Island

The other big upset that has already occurred is the New York Islanders sweeping of the Pittsburgh Penguins, also in the Eastern Conference. These were two very different teams, with the Islanders leaning on defense and goaltending whereas the Penguins brought a fast-paced offensive team with a lot of weapons. Entering this first-round matchup, the Penguins were -145 favorites to win the series. New York was a +125 underdog despite finishing ahead of Pittsburgh in the standings.

At the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, the Islanders were one of the teams with the longest odds to win the Stanley Cup. They were +4000, tied with the Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche. The Penguins were +1600. To win the Eastern Conference, the Islanders were tied with Carolina at +2000 for the longest odds to win the conference title. Pittsburgh was +800 in this regard.

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anders Lee of the New York Islanders
Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anders Lee of the New York Islanders (photo credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

With the first-round win, the Islanders are now +600 to win the Stanley Cup and +275 to win the Eastern Conference at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

If we go back and take a look at where the MoneyPuck.com projections had these two teams entering the playoffs, we find that they actually gave the Islanders a 53.3% chance of reaching the second round over the Penguins’ 46.7% chance. The Islanders originally had a 23.7% of making the third round and a 4% chance of winning the Stanley Cup, according to MoneyPuck.com, and those numbers are now 50.9% and 10.5%, respectively.

Like Columbus, New York will now wait to see who it faces next. The Islanders will get the winner of the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes series that has Washington, the defending Stanley Cup champions, up 2-1.

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