Edmonton Oilers

Oilers Sunday Census: Which Stanley Cup playoffs Round 1 series was most surprising?

Here in the early stages of Round 2, with eight teams remaining in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, fan bases swell and depress in synchronicity. Any given bounce of the puck can swing the season of a player, a franchise, a city. Each game sees the stakes heightened, the margins slimmer, our opinions more concrete, until they are engraved in the silver rings of history.

As much as we think we know which way the NHL’s four ongoing playoff series are going to go, we should remember how precarious the knife’s edge between victory and defeat could be. In recalling the unexpected twists and turns of the first round, we asked you which result was the most unexpected of all.

Want to take part in Sunday Census polls? We send them out every week on our Twitter at @oilrigEDM. Follow along or send in ideas for the next poll!

Instant classic as Panthers upset Bruins

In a runaway victory with 62% of the vote, the Florida Panthers victory over the Boston Bruins was an upset for the ages. The Panthers came back from a 3–1 series deficit when turning to the glass cannon of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. They have proven that their hot play was no fluke with an early 2–0 series lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Their tenacity, physicality, and speed has enough skill to ride Bobrovsky all the way if he keeps up this level of play.

The Panthers are a surprise in the sense that their street bully style was not quite as effective in the regular season. Amidst a changing roster and coaching staff after being swept in the second round last season, the Panthers took a while to get going, but had to claw their way to a playoff spot down to the waning hours of the regular season.

The Bruins were of course the best regular season team of all time, and the most popular pick to win the Cup. Though the legend of the Presidents Trophy curse is dubious, the correlation between 60+ win teams and shocking playoff results are staggering. Perhaps this shouldn’t have been such a surprise after all. 

Leafs win their first post lockout series win

Though the Toronto Maple Leafs have been a strong team for years, and finished higher in the regular season standings than the Tampa Bay Lightning, this was something of an upset. Though evenly matched on paper—not to mention disappointingly similar uniforms—the postseason reputations of these teams could not be more different. The Leafs find a way to lose, the Lightning find a way to win.

However, any Leafs fan that proclaims that “the curse is over” clearly has forgotten that there is more than one round in the NHL playoffs. Perhaps we can forgive them, perhaps. Fret not, Leafs fans, our unofficial and retrospective vote was clearly unsurprised by the result, with only 7% voting it as the surprise of the opening round.

Kraken on the board

In just their second season, the Seattle Kraken have advanced to the second round of the playoffs, upsetting the reigning champion Colorado Avalanche no less. Coming off a season in which they clearly underperformed, the Kraken reloaded in the offseason. Buoyed by a deep lineup, possessing a ferocious forecheck and a physical blueline, the Kraken proved doubters wrong all season, and dispatched an Avalanche team that was a shell of its former self.

After an offseason that saw them lose key forwards Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky (to the Kraken no less), the Avs were further hampered by Captain Gabriel Landeskog’s season long injury absence, as well as Valerie Nichushkin’s concerning situation. The Avs still had lots of star power in the lineup, but this is a tale of woe for a team expecting to take advantage of their alleged “Cup window”.

The Avs should still be considered a perennial contender but this does underscore how impressive the Lightning’s three consecutive finals trips were, and how ruthless the playoffs can be. With 29% of the vote this series clearly registered as a surprise outcome.

Oilers get it done

With only 2% of the vote, this was the least surprising series outcome of our poll. There were some precarious moments but the Oilers were able to close out the Los Angeles Kings for a second consecutive season. Clearly, Oil Country was fairly confident in their ability to handle a Kings team on the rise with what might be the league’s best one-two punch of defensive centres.

With the Bruins eliminated, as well as three of the final four teams from last season (the New York Rangers, Colorado Avalanche, and Tampa Bay Lightning), the Edmonton Oilers are the only team with a chance to return to consecutive Conference Finals. The strange scheduling of the pandemic-era might have made it tough for worse teams to take strides, but the dam has burst with a slew of new teams in this season’s second round. In some sense the Oilers are among the most tenured and accomplished teams remaining.

The Oilers current opponent, the Vegas Golden Knights, missed the playoffs last season for the first time. As such they have a great deal of postseason experience despite last season’s disappointing result.

Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire

Gregory Babinski

twitter: @axiomsofice

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