5 Unexpected Stanley Cup Wins

An ice hockey player celebrates a win.

Hard work, strong players, and good numbers appear to be the most likely combination in a winning NHL team. In online sports betting, these are the figures that decide crucial predictions. Often though, a team’s bad luck and unexpected injuries are what spur their opponent on to victory. In this list, we’re looking at five teams nobody expected to become Stanley Cup champions. For some it was luck, for others it was a strong comeback, and for some, well… there doesn’t seem to be an explanation.

1. Chicago Blackhawks: 1938

The Chicago Blackhawks are known for baffling NHL betting lines in their many surprise wins and losses. In a compilation like this one, the Hawks could account for at least three of the biggest surprise wins in Stanley Cup history. To avoid repetition, let’s focus on their 1938 cup win. 

The team broke a record of sorts and became the Stanley Cup champion with the lowest regular-season percentage ever. The win required a major shift from the team after a meager regular-season record of 14-25-9. After surprisingly managing to beat both the Montreal Canadiens and New York Americans, a setback followed when their goalie had to be replaced after an injury. This led to a loss and a series tie. Not for long though. The return of star goalie Mike Karakas led the team to two more wins and an amazing Stanley Cup victory. 

2. LA Kings: 2012

Firing a coach mid-season, ranking 10th with a month left to the cup, never winning a single cup after 40 years, and adding to that, ranking 29th in offense. These are not the kind of words you’d expect to describe 2012’s Stanley Cup champion. Neither would bettors or hockey enthusiasts, but in 2012, somehow, they did. 

The LA Kings were the first-ever eighth seed to win a Stanley Cup final. To win, the team beat the Vancouver Canucks, the expected cup champion, then followed with wins against the St. Louis Blues, and the Phoenix Coyotes. Eliminating the top three teams while being the eighth seed is no simple feat, and it’s one that hockey fans might never get to witness again. 

The Cup finals led to some of the most unexpected matchups, where the Kings won the first three games of every round. Word is that the last-minute acquisition of Jeff Carter added some power, with the help of players like Jonathan Quick in goal. Either way, the team effort led to the Kings becoming the first to win with an American captain, and the second with an American goaltender. Needless to say, hockey odds were anything but stable that year.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs: 1967

Two ice hockey players face off.

Even after winning the Cup a couple of times, the Maple Leafs know how to deliver a regular season that leaves fans and betting lines doubtful. Though the Toronto Maple Leafs have surprised fans quite a few times and took the number one spot, their 1967 win was unexpected for a different reason. 

It wasn’t just that the team had finished in third place, with Chicago in the lead by 19 points. The team also had the oldest roster of players in NHL history. Most players were over 30, including 42-year-old Johnny Bower, with the average age being a discouraging 31. Experts, fans, and bettors were not expecting a victorious outcome, to say the least. The team then defeated the Canadiens and the Hawks and secured the Cup win. 

4. New York Rangers: 1928

All fans remember the time the New York Rangers won their first Cup in only their second season in the NHL. The journey to the team’s win on April 8, 1928, sounds like the premise of a great film. After their goalie was injured, the team had no backup goaltender. They turned to Lester Patrick, a 44-year-old coach, GM, and retired player. The coach, who was never a goalie, made 18 saves in the 46-minute game, leading to a 2-1 victory. The team then loaned a goalie for the rest of the championship and went on to win their very first title. 

The Rangers became the NHL’s first American cup-winning team and the second Stanley Cup champion from the United States.

5. Montreal Canadiens: 1986

After their 1986 win, the Montreal Canadiens were considered one of the worst teams to win the Stanley Cup. So, it’s fitting they would be last on our list. Not only were they coming from a disappointing 40-33-7 season, but they were set up against the impressive Edmonton Oilers. The Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins in a best-of-five, then followed with an overtime win against the Hartford Wolf Pack and then the New York Rangers in five games. 

However, a lot had to go wrong for things to go right for the Canadiens. One of which was an infamous own-goal by Steve Smith in game seven. This title allowed the Canadiens to move past the New York Yankees for the most championships won by any North American professional sports team.

It’s not over until it’s over

As disappointing to the ice hockey betting community as these victories may have been, they all contributed to the Stanley Cup championship being the captivating multinational event that it is. Teams that barely made it to the playoffs have since earned the cup multiple times. Obvious frontrunners with the numbers on their side have defied odds and left supporters disappointed. 

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