How surprising have these NHL playoffs been? Well, the field is down to four teams, none of which won its division.
The best regular-season team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, in the first round. The other Eastern Conference wild card? That's the Carolina Hurricanes, who upset last year's Stanley Cup champion, the Washington Capitals, in seven games in the first round and then swept the New York Islanders in the second round.
Both wild cards have been eliminated in the Western Conference, but there has still been excitement and unpredictability. The San Jose Sharks took down two quality opponents in the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche, while the St. Louis Blues beat the Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars.
Not many people would have predicted the Boston Bruins, Hurricanes, Sharks and Blues to be the last four teams in the postseason. But that's where things stand. And it's possible to picture any of these four ending the season by hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Stanley Cup Odds
Boston Bruins 19-10
San Jose Sharks 23-10
St. Louis Blues 7-2
Carolina Hurricanes 50-13
Odds via Oddschecker
Stanley Cup Prediction
The Hurricanes may have the lowest odds to win the Stanley Cup among the remaining four teams, but they've also been the underdogs throughout the postseason, so this is nothing new.
It was surprising when they outlasted the Capitals, winning Games 6 and 7 to advance to the second round. It may have been even more surprising when they swept the Islanders, who beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and were led by coach Barry Trotz, who guided the Capitals to the franchise's first Stanley Cup in 2018.
It's time to stop betting against them. The Hurricanes will continue their unexpected run to win the second Stanley Cup in franchise history.
This is only the sixth time Carolina has made the playoffs since its first season in 1997-98. However, it has reached the Eastern Conference finals three of those times, made the Stanley Cup finals twice and won the trophy in 2006.
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour knows what it takes to win the Stanley Cup. That's because he played for Carolina when it won it all in 2006, as well as when it reached the Eastern Conference finals in 2009, the team's last postseason appearance before this year.
In his first season as head coach, Brind'Amour has already taken the Hurricanes to the postseason and won two playoff series. It would only be appropriate to see him guide his former team to its second Stanley Cup.
"Rod does things the right way and everybody just does things the right way," Carolina owner Tom Dundon said, according to NHL.com's Tom Gulitti. "When things weren't going good earlier in the year, he didn't get mad at anybody, he didn't blame anybody and nobody gave up on the plan. ... The fact that the players in the organization stuck with it and are getting this now is pretty good."
The Hurricanes are playing strong defense, as they've allowed more than two goals only once in their eight playoff wins. They've allowed fewer than two goals in four of those victories. And their offense may be clicking as well, as they've scored four or more goals in four of their last six games, all wins, including scoring five in each of their Game 3 and 4 victories over the Islanders.
So, while Carolina may still not be the favorite to win the Stanley Cup with the field down to four teams, it'll still find a way to win it all.