We all know how unpredictable the NHL playoffs can be, as evidenced by last year’s sixth-seeded team, San Jose Sharks, reaching the Stanley Cup finals. So, let’s cool down a bit on the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks, and start talking about the postseason’s dark horses.
Read on below and know why these squads are worth a look!
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2017 NHL Playoffs Sleeper Picks and Predictions
Anaheim Ducks (46-23-13, 105 points)
Odds to win Stanley Cup: +1,400
Before you utter the word “chokers” under your breath, do know that this Ducks team is different than in years past. For one, they have their well-respected coach, Randy Carlyle, back, who guided them to a championship in 2007.
He had a young Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf at that time (both 21 years old) and made them a key part of the run. Now that the two are more mature and battle-tested, while also having an emerging talent in Rickard Rakell, we should like Anaheim’s chances of having a great crack at the title.
As one of the better defensive teams overall – third in save percentage (.920) – the Ducks closed out the season being one of the hottest teams in the league. They are winners in nine of their last 11 games, and in five of those, they held their opponents to one goal or less.
Edmonton Oilers (40-27-15, 95 points)
Odds to win Stanley Cup: +1,600
When you think of the Oilers this season, one name comes to mind immediately – Connor McDdavid (as it should). In only his second year, he has managed to lead his team to the playoffs, pace the league in assists (68), and become a strong candidate in the MVP race.
However, remember that this is a team-oriented bunch. They won’t exactly wow you with their stat rankings – top 10 in total goals and save percentage – but they seem to matchup well against their potential opponents and the elite teams. If they can somehow avoid the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators, whom they are a combined 0-6 this year, we can see them doing some damage. Excluding those two teams, Edmonton is 15-4-1 when facing the all of the other West playoff teams this season.
Toronto Maple Leafs (40-27-15, 95 points)
Odds to win Stanley Cup: +3,000
The upstart Maple Leafs are a nice, attractive sleeper pick because it’s just fun to root for sensational rookie Auston Matthews, who’s been blasting defenses with his veteran-like abilities. His 40 goals is, by far, the most among first-year players this season and second only to Sidney Crosby overall, who has 44.
With Matthews and scoring partner, Nazem Kadri, combining for over 70 goals and almost 60 assists on the year, Toronto transformed into one of the most potent offenses in the league – top five in goals and power play goals, and eighth in shooting percentage.
Also, their first-round opponent, and possibly the best team in all of hockey, the Washington Capitals, are a great matchup for them. They lost two of the three meetings with the Caps during the season, but it could easily been the other way around, as they have proved in those battles that they can hang competitively with the league’s best. One of those contests was an entertaining, hard-fought, 6-5 OT victory for the Caps, and it showcased how dangerous this Leafs team can be.
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