NHL Playoffs 2013: Ranking Underdogs' Chances of Advancing to Conference Finals

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistMay 16, 2013

VANCOUVER, CANADA - MAY 1: Goalie Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks covers up the puck during Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Vancouver Canucks, May 01, 2013 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Rich Lam/Getty Images

In the past few years alone, we have seen plenty of underdogs go deep in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The question is: which teams will be able to do it in 2013?

Last season, the Los Angeles Kings ended the year as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, but they turned it on in the playoffs to hoist the Stanley Cup. While both No. 1 seeds advanced out of the first round this year, there are still a number of surprising teams alive.

Of the four remaining underdogs in the conference semifinals, here is a look at which squads are the most likely to keep winning and advance to the next round. 


4. Detroit Red Wings vs. Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks won the Presidents' Trophy as the best team in the regular season. Since the postseason began, they have not missed a beat.

Chicago is very strong in every aspect of the game as a squad that can score or defend as well as any team in the league. Patrick Sharp has been particularly impressive as an offensive force that the Red Wings will truly struggle to stop.

Detroit's toughness and experience might allow the group to win a game or two in this series, but it's hard to imagine the Red Wings earning four victories against the top team in the NHL.


3. Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh will certainly have a tougher time in this series than it did against the New York Islanders. The first round featured a number of high-scoring games where the offense was able to find the twine seemingly at will.

However, Craig Anderson and Ottawa will not allow the Penguins to score as easily in the next round. The goalie led the entire league this season in goals against average.

On the other hand, the Senators struggle to score and will still fail to outscore the high-powered offense of Pittsburgh. The four goals in the first game are a strong indication of the fact that it will take a lot to slow down the Pens this time of year.


2. New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins

No matter what the sport, New York and Boston will always make a great postseason matchup. This battle features two teams that barely escaped with Game 7 wins in the first round.

The difference in this series will be Henrik Lundqvist, who helped the Rangers win the final two games against the Washington Capitals with a pair of shutouts. The talented veteran is playing as well as ever and appears ready to put his team on his back for the remainder of the postseason.

Boston is very strong defensively as well, especially when it has to kill a penalty. However, there were obvious struggles in the opening round, which could be cause for some concern.

New York is simply coming in as a better team and should pull the upset.


1. San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

Despite the fact that the Kings were able to earn the win in the first game of the series, the Sharks are still in very good shape to move on to the next round.

San Jose dominated a very good Vancouver Canucks team in the opening round by showing that it could win in many ways. The team won with good defense, strong offense, getting ahead early and by coming from behind late.

The Sharks are also very good at scoring on the power play, something they did not take advantage of in Game 1. You can be certain that this will not be a problem for the rest of the series.

While the Kings could be tough to beat if Jonathan Quick regains his momentum from last year's playoff run, San Jose is still the better squad in this series.