Remembering some of the biggest upsets in Stanley Cup history

Remembering some of the biggest upsets in Stanley Cup history

05 Apr 2021 |

Even if this is site mainly about European ice hockey we always look out for hockey around the world. In this piece we take a look back at some historic NHL moments.


Unpredictability is one of the things that keeps us coming back for more with every sport. There’s nothing quite like an upset against the odds to get the pulse racing and the tongues wagging, even if it leaves the bookmakers counting the cost. We’ve seen it in football when Leicester overcame ludicrous odds of 5000/1 to win the Premier League in 2016 and only last month, journeyman snooker player Jordan Brown defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan, the greatest player of all time, to win the Welsh Open. 

Hockey is no different in that it serves us some delicious platefuls of unpredictability from time to time. Here we look back on three classic Stanley Cup upsets from across the decades. 

1975 – New York hit the ground running

Some things in sport are axiomatic. One such rule is that expansion teams have to play the role of whipping boys for at least half a dozen seasons before they are allowed a campaign that is even mediocre. Back in 1975, someone forgot to tell the New York Islanders the script, as they embarked upon their third season in the NHL. Not only did they make the playoffs, theyblew away the Rangers in three games to reach the quarter finals. 

At that point, things looked to be returning to script, as the Penguins pummelled them for three straight games. Yet a change of goaltender reignited the Islanders’ belief, and somehowthey clawed their way back and forged on into the semis with a 4-3 victory. It was the most astonishing run ever for what was still considered an expansion team, and the sport has not seen the like before or since. 

1982 – Kings for a day

Seven years later, it was the LA Kings who were the improbable semi-finalists. If you check out the Nordicbet betting odds on them making the final of the Stanley Cup this year, you’ll get a price of around 35/1. 40 years ago, the situation was much the same, and having made it beyond the regular season by the narrowest margin, nobody expected them to hang around for long.

When they confounded expectations and matched what the Islanders had achieved seven years earlier, it was seen as an incredible achievement. But surely they could go no further. Remember, they were up against an Oilers team that included the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey and JarruKuri. However, this was a team that just didn’t know when it was beaten. In the third game, the Kings were 5-0 down in the third period, yet they snatched victory in overtime,en route to perhaps the biggest upset in cup history. 

2010 – Canadiens rewrite the record books

Going into the quarter finals as the huge underdog to the Capitals, no eighth seed had evercome back after falling 3-1 behind the top seed. That’s exactly what they were asked to do, and they came up with the goods to keep the campaign alive. 

Much of the credit has to go to goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Songs will surely be written of his acts of heroism in the subsequent games that saw him stop shot after shot after shot as Montreal ground out a series win and progressed to the semi-finals.

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