Sometimes underdogs can become champions.
Throughout NHL playoff history, there have been some shocking moments where lower seeds have gone on to win the Stanley Cup Final.
This year, two No. 3 seeds – the St. Louis Blues from the Central Division and the Tampa Bay Lightning from the Atlantic Division – pulled upsets in the first round and have the chance to join that list.
Though seeding formats have changed multiple times over the years, a few teams beat the odds to lift the trophy at the end of the postseason. These are the lowest seeds to win the NHL Stanley Cup Final:
Who are the lowest seeds to win the Stanley Cup Final?
2012 - Los Angeles Kings, No. 8 seed
No other No. 8 seed in professional sports comes close to matching what the Los Angeles Kings did in the 2012 NHL Playoffs. After sneaking into the playoffs by winning their final game of the regular season, the Kings’ playoff route included eliminating the No. 1 Vancouver Canucks, No. 2 St. Louis Blues and No. 3 Phoenix Coyotes. No other NHL team has beaten the top three seeds in that sequence to reach the final.
Los Angeles met the No. 6 New Jersey Devils for the championship, so either team could have made history with their low seeds. The Kings won the series 4-2 to become the first ever No. 8 seed in professional sports to win a championship. They started off every series with a 3-0 lead despite not having home-ice advantage.
This was the second-to-last season of the NHL operating with 1-8 seeding for the playoffs, which started in the 1998-99 season. The league switched to a four-division, two-conference system beginning in the 2013-14 season, which had “Wild Card 1” and “Wild Card 2” seeds introduced.
1980 - New York Islanders, No. 5 seed
The 1980 playoffs had a different format because the league had just absorbed four new teams to bump the total to 21 franchises. Sixteen of those teams qualified for the postseason and faced off in a 1-16, 2-15, 3-14, etc. format in the preliminary round, which was a best-of-five set. Every higher seed advanced to the second round.
The Islanders were the No. 5 seed since they had the fifth-best record in the NHL that season. They beat the No. 13 Pittsburgh Penguins in the preliminary round, No. 4 Boston Bruins and No. 2 Buffalo Sabres before facing the No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers in the final. New York won the series 4-2 to become the first five seed in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup.
1995 - New Jersey Devils, No. 5 seed
The 1995 season featured just 48 regular season games due to a lockout. This format did not rely on traditional seeding brackets. Instead, the highest seed that advanced would play the lowest seed still alive, regardless of where that team was in the bracket.
New Jersey finished the regular season with the fifth seed after edging the Washington Capitals on head-to-head points in games against each other. The Devils beat the No. 4 Bruins, No. 3 Penguins and No. 2 Flyers before meeting with the No. 1 Detroit Red Wings for the Stanley Cup. The outcome? A clean 4-0 sweep.
Who are the lowest seeds to reach the Stanley Cup Final?
Though they fell short of making history, these seven teams went on miraculous runs as lower seeds before coming up short in the Stanley Cup Final. Four of them were No. 7 seeds and one was a No. 8 seed during the seeding era. The other two would’ve been a No. 7 or 8 seed (ordered by year):
1991 - N4 Minnesota North Stars lost in the final*
1994 - No. 7 Vancouver Canucks lost in the final
1999 - No. 7 Buffalo Sabres lost in the final
2003 - No. 7 Anaheim Ducks lost in the final
2006 - No. 8 Edmonton Oilers lost in the final
2010 - No. 7 Philadelphia Flyers lost in the final
2017 - WC2 Nashville Predators lost in the final**
*The North Stars were last in the Norris Division of the Clarence Campbell Conference. At 68 points, they were technically the No. 7 seed that year with the Canucks (Smythe Division) having the second-lowest points in the conference for the No. 8 seed
**The seeding terminology changed in the 2013-14 season, which saw the introduction of WC1 and WC2 seeds as aforementioned. The Predators were the WC2 team in the West, which would convert to the No. 8 seed