The Home of Fantasy Sports Analysis

5 NHL Playoff Teams That Could Surprise

5 NHL Playoff Teams That Could Surprise

The second season is just about upon us. Anyone that knows the NHL understands that the 82 game marathon sets up for one of the most brutal two month runs in sports. At the end of that run is the reward which is the Stanley Cup. This journey starts with 16 teams and ends up with one. Five teams may just surprise everyone this Spring. Who will be this year’s San Jose? Who will pull off that first round upset? Let’s take a quick look.

Boston Bruins

This is a team that could truly go on a run or crash and burn in the first round. There is little middle ground here. Boston still has some work to do to make the second season. However, it is likely that they make it.


[the_ad id=”534″]Boston is one of the best teams in the league when it comes to creating scoring chances and shots. They have one of the better top six units as well. Combine that with a dynamic power play and there are a few pundits out there who believe the Bruins can win a round or two if they draw the right match-up (Montreal) in round number one. Some will argue that point of contention but it would be interesting to see what the likes of Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak can do in the playoffs.

Boston has a special teams index of nine which is one of the best in the league (7th on the power play, 2nd on the penalty kill). The Bruins are also dangerous shorthanded with ten goals which is tied for second in the league. In a seven game series, tides can turn on these momentum shifters.


It is hard to believe but goaltending has been an issue for Boston all year. Tuukka Rask is 39th among 43 goaltenders in the league when it comes to even strength save percentage over the second half. That is troubling. His save percentage has dipped to around league average (.914). Some blame this on the defense in front of him but Rask is struggling on and off. Others think that is because of nagging injuries and it could very well be the case.

The depth lines have looked better of late but are still a concern. They can get cratered when it comes to shots against. Also, the defense has broken more than it has bent over the second half. However, Zdeno Chara has been playing better of late and is showing some flashes of that hard shot and ability to scare opposing teams. Boston truly is a Jekyll and Hyde type of team.

Calgary Flames

The belief was all Calgary needed was average goaltending to make the playoffs. A hot early streak by Chad Johnson and then Brian Elliott’s run now has helped achieved that goal. Calgary still has a slight shot at one of the division playoff berths as opposed to the wildcard. With how well they are playing, the Flames may not be an easy out.


[the_ad id=”693″]It is the run that Brian Elliott has been on that has carried this team. He has done this in previous March’s before when he was in St. Louis. He is close to .930 in his last 15 starts as far as save percentage and has 11 wins in that span. Elliott has to carry the Flames in the playoffs like he did last year for St. Louis. That was an up and down ride but they did beat Chicago in round number one. If they draw Edmonton or even Anaheim, they have a shot.

The first line is also clicking with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau producing around a point a game lately. That must continue throughout the playoffs. Even their possession metrics have crept up into positive territory relative to the team. Special teams have improved enough where they are not an eyesore like they were earlier in the year.


It is concerning to say this but the second line has gone ice cold. They still have marvelous advanced statistics when compared to the rest of their team. However, the chances are not being converted. In the playoffs, secondary scoring is essential to survival. Teams can go on runs without it but Calgary needs this second line to get their share of points or it will be one short playoff stay.

Their depth defensemen and fourth line are also troublesome but most any team can honestly say that. Does Calgary get that tired team? If not, their weaknesses could be easily exposed.

Nashville Predators

Nashville is not exactly much of a surprise but they would be this season given how the Central Division has played out. They are the type of team that can score a ton and give up a ton. However, they are in the playoffs and as they say, once the second season starts, strange things can happen. They did almost get past San Jose last year in round number two.


[the_ad id=”384″]That top line is dynamite when it is going. Nashville also possesses one of the best groups of six defensemen in the league. Nashville does have some scoring depth but the problem comes down to execution. Pace is something the Predators like to keep high. They must with their top line especially in order to have any success.

Goaltending has been a strength lately as Pekka Rinne is on one of his good runs. He does have a .931 save percentage and a sub 2.00 goals against average over his last ten starts. Being in good form is something that has been sometimes lacking with Rinne in previous years.


Alas, consistency has been a huge issue for the Predators all year from the top line to the depth to the goaltending and defense also. Every team struggles with these issues but Nashville did suffer in the standings because they could not get their phases working together all at the same time. When that does not occur often enough, there are issues.

Nashville’s playoff hopes come down to limiting fatal scoring chances allowed and getting their 5 on 5 to roll at least two, if not three more consistent lines. If they can do that, they can surprise. If not, then they are likely one and done.

New York Rangers

New York has another 100 point season under its belt but will finish fourth in the Metropolitan and play the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. They have enjoyed past playoff success against the Canadiens and Carey Price. However, could the team have a deeper playoff run in them?


It is all about forward depth. On paper, the Rangers were stacked at 1-12 in such a way at the start of the year where pundits took notice. The fact that they got off to a hot start yet again seemed to prove those experts right. They had excellent balance chances and scoring wise and were averaging over 3.5 goals per game. Henrik Lundqvist was playing Vezina caliber hockey once again. Things did get rough with injuries and poor play in the middle of the season. For the most part, March has seen them right the ship some. The Rangers are a better road team than home team. That is a fact. It could serve them well in the playoffs.


The problem when a team does not have a solid defensive core is they give up chances and their forwards often get saddled with playing more defense than they should. New York has issues more because of whom they play where than anything else. Puck movers are needed and the Rangers defense has been guilty of not doing this often enough lately. That is the argument anyway. Henrik Lundqvist also has more of these oops type games at home which is a sobering thought. Also, some lines have gone completely south offensively (see Derek Stepan goal drought). Too many of these things happen at once again and the Rangers are going to be eliminated.

New York must start out fast in series because they almost are expected to be long and drawn out. Montreal can be vulnerable defensively though the Canadiens have cleaned up their own end some. They can surprise if they squeak by Montreal because this is a team that has shown it can get by Washington. The problem is can the Rangers put it back together in time for Round One?

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto is a team that took the “Team Fun” mantra and ran with it most of the year. The result is making the playoffs. They are a team that could prove to be quite dangerous. This is the one that we keep simple.

Why They Can Surprise

It comes down to will Toronto play at their normal pace or what they have over the past few weeks? Toronto has played a little tighter. They cannot come playoff time because the youth gone wild philosophy had worked so well. Auston Matthews will likely score 40 this year and William Nylander has been a heck of a forward in his own right. Both can create their own offense along with their other two offensive lines. The fact that Toronto can roll three lines which can score helps immensely. In the playoffs, that balance is an asset.

Frederik Andersen is the other reason why they can upset some teams. Andersen showed spurts of utter brilliance in the playoffs for Anaheim. He did have the Ducks a game away from the Stanley Cup Final one season. The goalie can steal games which means a series could turn on that.

Toronto will have to play at a breakneck pace because the minute they slow up or get slowed down, they will be eliminated. The second season is a different animal but even then, Mike Babcock once led an Anaheim Ducks team to within one game of the holy grail.


This could be some postseason so strap on in and get ready hockey fans. It is going to be eight weeks of pure ups and downs. Most importantly, soon it will be time to get cup crazy!


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.