The San Jose Sharks were in their third year of existence and making their playoff debut after a sub-.500 season. All that waited was the mighty, 100-point Red Wings. The Sharks had gone 11-71-2 in the previous season. Easy, right?
Somehow the Sharks came through to win in seven. That game was their second road victory of the series, something that would have been unthinkable as recently as eight months earlier. In the team’s first two seasons, they’d won a total of three road games in each.
You’ll note this is the only NHL series on the list. And, not to give away the rest of the list, you won’t find any NFL game on it. Why?
Pro football and its sudden-death playoff system doesn’t lend itself to upsets even when shaky teams win their division and get to host a wild-card game. Yes, the 7-9 Seattle team beating the Saints in 2010 was surprising, but is any win at that tin-roofed stadium that much of an upset? The teams are too evenly matched at that level and the randomness makes wins such as this a regularity. In terms of NFL upsets, it’s pretty much Super Bowls III and XXXV and that’s it. Neither, obviously was a first rounder.
It’s the same with hockey. The Preds beating the Blackhawks in a No. 8 vs. No. 1 series would be surprising, sure, but hot goaltending has gotten many average teams deep into the playoffs. Upsets are less surprising as a result.