The underdog has been backed into a corner in this season’s Stanley Cup playoffs with the New York Rangers the last outsiders left standing.
With pre-season favourite Colorado having eased to the Western Conference title, those hoping for an unlikely recipient of Stanley’s Mug are pinning their hopes on the Rangers edging out the two-time defending champions Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals.
Having entered the campaign as a 22-1 chance, the Rangers would rank as the second biggest priced winners of the NHL’s top prize in the last 15 years.
That would put them in the mix to join an elite list of teams to have defied the odds and gone all the way to Stanley Cup glory.
Chicago Black Hawks – 1938
It’s impossible to say what price the Black Hawks (they didn’t switch to a one-word version until the 1980s) would have been to win the Stanley Cup in the 1937/38 season but they would certainly have been long shots.
Chicago had been dreadful the year before, finishing 11th overall, and looked unlikely to challenge in the playoffs after completing the 37/38 regular season with a 14-25-9 record.
The Black Hawks appeared to be heading for an early playoff exit in round one when dropping the first game of their series to the well-fancied Montreal Canadiens but bounced back to clinch the best-of-three series 2-1 and then repeating the trick in the next round against the New York Americans.
Despite losing their goalie to injury for the final, Chicago would go on to defeat the powerful Toronto Maple Leafs to clinch the Cup in a remarkable fashion.
Pittsburgh Penguins – 1991
It seems strange to think that a team featuring Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr were 30-1 for the Stanley Cup at the start of the 1990-91 season but few expected much out of a Pittsburgh franchise that had done nothing to that point.
The Penguins had won three playoff games since 1967 and made the 90/91 post-season with an unremarkable 88 points.
Pittsburgh were to record multiple series wins for the first time in franchise history by defeating the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals but the party looked to be over when they went 2-0 down in the series to Boston.
The Penguins responded by winning the next four games, setting up a finals series with a franchise that would have been an even more unlikely Cup winner in the Minnesota North Stars.
Pittsburgh would end the North Stars’ fairytale run by completing their own storybook ending to capture their first-ever Stanley Cup. They would return next season to defend the title at a far more modest price of 8/1.
Carolina Hurricanes – 2006
Hockey returned from a lockout-enforced year off in the 2005/06 season with the Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators amongst those priced up to return with a bang. Few gave 60/1 shots Carolina much hope but they had clearly put the enforced break to good use, building a roster with a good blend of youth and experience that was led by Eric Staal and Rod Brind’Amour.
If no one was paying attention before the season, they soon were as the Hurricanes stormed to second in the Eastern Conference with 112 points.
In the playoffs they got the better of the Montreal Canadians, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres before needing seven games to defeat the Edmonton Oilers in the final for their first cup as the Canes.
Los Angeles Kings – 2012
The Kings entered the season as 16-1 chances for the Cup, hardly a no-hopers price but make the list for overcoming numerous obstacles put in front of them. Goals were an issue all year and a change of coach mid-season failed to rectify that.
They limped into the playoffs seeded eighth but it was in the postseason where they came alive, going 10-0 on the road to start the playoffs as they became the lowest seeds not just to win the Stanley Cup but to capture one of North America’s big four prize.
The Kings went 3-0 up in every series and became only the second team to eliminate the first, second and third seeds from the playoffs in the same season. The New Jersey Devils were the last team to fall to the Kings as they clinched the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
St. Louis Blues – 2019
Another first-time Stanley Cup winner, the St. Louis Blues of the 2018/19 season looked to have been overpriced for cup success at 30/1 when sitting in last place in the NHL in January.
They got as big as 100/1 for the cup at the All-Star Break with a change of coaching having done little to change their fortunes.
The arrival of rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington to the team would mark the turnaround in the Blues’ season though as they put together a franchise-record 11-game win streak, ending the campaign 30-10-5 to snatch third in the Central Division.
The Blues would stay hot in the playoffs, led by Ryan O’Reily, who recorded 23 points in the postseason as the Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks and, finally, Boston Bruins were outmuscled by St. Louis as they completed the most remarkable comeback in hockey history.