NHL Playoff Bottomg Seed History

NHL Bottom Seed Playoff History: Washington Unlikely To Escape Their Fate

With 91 points and a 40-31-11 record, the Washington Capitals enter the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the lowest-ranked side. Which as you'll see, isn't a good thing.

The lowest-ranked team entering the postseason has never won a Cup and has rarely escaped the first round.

To all of you howling "What about the LA Kings in 2012?!" The Kings weren't the lowest seed in the playoffs that year. Their 95 points were better than the Panthers, Capitals and Senators.

Going Deep...Recently

In the last 20 years, only six bottom-seeded sides made it past the opening round of the playoffs. From there, only three teams have made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Of course, all three sides lost in those finals.

Last 20: Lowest-Ranked Team's Playoff Runs
YearTeamRound of Elimination
2009Anaheim DucksSecond Round
2010Montreal CanadiensConference Finals
2017Nashville PredatorsStanley Cup Finals
2019Colorado AvalancheSecond Round
2021Montreal CanadiensStanley Cup Finals
2023Florida PanthersStanley Cup Finals


But when you look at the above table, you can see three bottom seeds have gone all the way to the Cup finals since 2017. That's 50% of the last six bottom seeds in the last six years. So maybe it's getting easier for recent bottom dwellers to go long?

Can Washington follow suit?

Will Washington Follow Suit?

The odds are very much against the Capitals. Looking at our preview of the Washington Capitals series against the New York Rangers, the Caps are +340 dogs to get through the opening round. That's a pathetically low 23% implied odd.

And look, it's not as if Washington was always destined for the Cup or even the playoffs. Their opening odds to win the Stanley Cup were the eighth lowest in the NHL at +6600. Getting this far was never in the cards. 

Washington's Opening Cup Odds vs Other Bottom Seeds
TeamOpening Cup OddsRank
Montreal Canadiens (2002)+700025
Anaheim Ducks (2009)+10004
Montreal Canadiens (2010)+250012
Nashville Predators (2017)+16008
Colorado Avalanche (2019)+600021
Montreal Canadiens (2021)+280015
Florida Panthers (2023)+9003
Washington Capitals (2024)+660025


Just focusing on those three sides that went to the Cup Finals since 2017 - Preds (2017), Habs (2021), Panthers (2023) - it's clear Washington will need elite goalkeeping if they want to be the fourth.

In 2017, Nahsville had Pekka Rinne hold down the fort with a ridiculous 0.930SV% and 1.96GAA. Carey Price had excellent numbers in 2021 with a 0.924SV% and 2.28GAA. Finally, in 2023, Sergei Bobrovsky stole two rounds against Toronto and Carolina all on his own with a stupidly good 0.954SV% and 1.51GAA.

And with all due respect to Washington's goalie core, they don't have anyone who can steal multiple series like Nashville, Montreal, or Florida had.

Darcy Kuemper is the vet between the pipes but he's been dreadful this year averaging a 0.890SV% and 3.31GAA. Because of those poor numbers, the crease will likely be given to Charlie Lindgren.

At 30 years of age, it's wild to think Lindgren is untested but it's accurate. He might have started 74 games in the past two years, but he's never played in a playoff game in his career. 

Washington has the longest odds to win the 2024 Stanley Cup at +15000 and rightfully so. I don't believe they've got what it takes to become the first bottom seed to win the Cup.

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