Upset Meter for Every First-Round NHL Playoff Series
The 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs open on Tuesday night, and that means that the upset meters finally have a chance to kick into high gear. With strong lower seeds such as the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers and more parity than ever, this postseason is sure to be filled with more shocking series outcomes than ever.
2012 was filled with plenty of surprising twists and turns as the Los Angeles Kings made a mockery of the tourney en route to the Stanley Cup.
Could we see an epic run from one of the bottom seeds this year as well?
For the sake of this slideshow an upset is merely a lower seed defeating a higher seed. The "upset meter" will be on a scale of 1 to 10, one being as likely as Pavel Brendl playing in the NHL again and 10 being as likely as John Tortorella being snippy with members of the media.
No. 1 Chicago vs. No. 8 Minnesota
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Season Series: The Chicago Blackhawks won two of the three regular-season games against the Minnesota Wild.
Keys to an Upset: For the Wild to take down the Presidents' Trophy-winning 'Hawks they'll need to come up with a special performance. It isn't that Minnesota doesn't boast a solid hockey team. Chicago is just better across the board.
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter would have to go ballistic while shutting down the combination of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews—it's possible but just not likely.
The X-factor is Niklas Backstrom, who would need to channel 2003's version of J.S. Giguere to push the Wild over the top in this series.
Keys to Preventing an Upset: Chicago has been the best team in hockey since the first day of the regular season. They've found ways to win hockey games via stingy offense and electric goal scoring.
The 'Hawks simply need to continue to play their game against the Wild to emerge victorious.
Upset Meter: 2/10
No. 2 Anaheim Ducks vs. No. 7 Detroit Red Wings
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Season Series: The Detroit Red Wings won two of the three regular-season games against the Anaheim Ducks.
Keys to an Upset: For the Red Wings to knock off the Ducks, they'll need to stay healthy. That was the biggest reason for Detroit's seventh-place finish in the Western Conference.
The group finally seemed to come together over the final month of the season and looked especially good in must-win games as they were pushing toward a playoff spot over the final 10 days of the regular season.
Detroit can't afford to get into the equivalent of a schoolyard brawl with the rough and tumble Ducks. If they can turn this into a skill game, they have a good chance of besting Anaheim. Letting Jordin Tootoo and Justin Abdelkader off the leash a bit couldn't hurt things, though.
Keys to Preventing an Upset: The Red Wings have been knocked out of the playoffs in two consecutive years by teams that have pushed them around. Anaheim will need to lean on Detroit's skill guys at every opportunity and get the puck in deep as often as possible.
The more the Ducks can trap Detroit's young-ish defense in its own zone, the better off they'll be.
Upset Meter: 7/10
No. 3 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 6 San Jose Sharks
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Season Series: The San Jose Sharks won all three of their regular-season games against the Vancouver Canucks.
Keys to an Upset: The depth of the Sharks is something that not a lot of people are talking about, but it's there. Since trading Ryane Clowe and Douglas Murray, San Jose's team speed has increased noticeably, and it is getting offense from throughout the lineup.
Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton have been playing on different lines; Joe Pavelski has been centering a dynamite third line, and Brent Burns has taken up the role of power forward quite well.
The Sharks can also afford to take a few penalties while roughing up Vancouver's top guys, as the Canucks power play has been awful in 2013.
Keys to Preventing an Upset: Getting Cory Schneider back early in the series would be a huge plus moving forward. Roberto Luongo is easily shakeable at times, and San Jose's forwards will be in his kitchen all series long.
For the Canucks to emerge here, they'll need to continue to improve with the extra man. If the Sharks are able to take physical liberties without paying the price on the scoreboard, this could be a short series.
Upset Meter: 7/10
No. 4 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 5 L.A. Kings
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Season Series: The L.A Kings won all three of their regular-season games against the St. Louis Blues.
Keys to an Upset: If the Blues have a kryptonite then the entire roster of the Kings must skate around with it in their pants when they play St. Louis. L.A. won all three of its regular-season games against the Blues and also swept them out of the playoffs in 2012.
That's seven straight victories over a strong Blues squad.
For the defending champions to continue this string of dominance, they will have to get the body on the Blues as often as possible. Targeting a strong defensive unit will be key, as the Blues boast one of the deepest and most talented groups in the NHL.
Keys to Preventing an Upset: St. Louis needs to find a way to win one of the first two games at home to right the ship. They can't continue to drop games to L.A. If the Blues can win Game 1 at home and shake the ghosts then this could be a long series.
If the Kings go into St. Louis and steal a game, things could once again go south for the Blues.
Upset Meter: 8/10
No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 8 New York Islanders
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Season Series: The Pittsburgh Penguins won four of the five regular-season games against the New York Islanders.
Keys to an Upset: This series will only go as far as Evgeni Nabokov can carry the Islanders. If the pre-April version of the netminder is the guy that takes to the net, the Penguins will make quick work of him.
John Tavares will be outstanding. The chance to go heads-up against the best player in the game will light a fire under him, and he'll continue to produce, but New York just doesn't have the guns to hang with Pittsburgh in a shootout.
It'll come down to the goaltenders then. Marc-Andre Fleury has been prone to some stinkers, but he doesn't have a dark postseason history like Nabokov.
Keys to Preventing an Upset: Get pucks on the net and put bodies in front of Nabokov. If the Penguins can rattle his cage early then it will be a good sign. However, if the Islanders steal a game in Pittsburgh and have tangible proof that these are winnable games, things could get interesting.
The Penguins should win. They made huge moves at the deadline to win the Cup now, but they can't afford to look beyond a young and hungry Islanders club.
Upset Meter: 3.5/10
No. 2 Montreal Canadiens vs. No. 7 Ottawa Senators
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Season Series: The Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens split their season series, winning two games each.
Keys to an Upset: The key to the upset would have been the early return of Erik Karlsson, but that already happened. Ottawa managed to cling on to a playoff spot while its best defenseman and starting goaltender were on the mend.
Now they are both back and healthy, and this is a very dangerous seventh seed. Craig Anderson is among the best netminders in the game right now and will likely give Montreal fits.
For the Senators to upset the Canadiens, they'll need to get into Carey Price's head early. Get traffic to the net. Spray him with ice. Deflect pucks out front and jam away at rebounds. He hasn't been nearly as good in the second half of the season, and there's blood in the water.
Keys to Preventing an Upset: The Canadiens need to shift their game back into high gear after coasting into the playoffs. They still managed to win the division, but their level of hockey saw a sharp drop off after a playoff spot was clinched.
Price will need to regain his early season form, and the Canadiens will need to get back to the hardworking, forecheck-heavy brand of puck that got them into the playoffs in the first place. Even that might not be enough though.
Upset Meter: 9/10
No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 6 New York Rangers
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Season Series: The New York Rangers won two of the three regular-season games against the Washington Capitals.
Keys to an Upset: Since trading Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline, the New York Rangers have insisted that they have more depth throughout the lineup. All of that supposed depth will need to be on display if the Rangers want to hang with the high-flying Capitals.
The big keys for New York will be to clog up the neutral zone, block a ton of shots, keep the game to the boards and get great goaltending. Luckily for the Rangers that describes their game to a T.
The most obvious key will be finding a shadow that can shut down Alex Ovechkin.
Keys to Preventing an Upset: If the Capitals can turn this series into a sprint with the Rangers, they'll have a good chance of winning. That might not be likely though, as New York has one of the more strict coaches in the NHL.
Braden Holtby will also need to find a way to out-duel Henrik Lundqvist for at least one game.
Getting Alex Ovechkin free of checkers and using overall team speed to force New York into bad penalties will be huge points of interest for Washington.
Upset Meter: 8/10
No. 4 Boston Bruins vs. No. 5 Toronto Maple Leafs
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Season Series: The Boston Bruins won three of the four regular-season games against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Keys to an Upset: The feeling around the league may be that the Bruins will be able to push around the Maple Leafs, yet Toronto has been much tougher to play against than Boston as of late. The Leafs fight as much as anyone else in the league and have tough depth forwards that won't allow the likes of Milan Lucic to get free shots in on Phil Kessel.
Toronto could try to out-tough the Bruins, but if they can turn this series into a firefight, the odds of victory likely increase.
Kessel is one of the best goal scorers in the NHL, and Nazem Kadri would like to see his star continue to rise after an outstanding regular season. And lets not forget James Reimer, who management tried very hard to replace before the postseason.
Think he won't be fired up for a shot against the Bruins?
Keys to Preventing an Upset: Getting to Reimer early would be a big boost for the B's, as would getting some good, clean checks on the smaller forwards that Toronto ices. There's an equal amount of fight in these two teams, however. The difference is that one squad doesn't feel the need to rub everyone's nose in it.
Upset Meter: 7.5/10