With the third round of the playoffs set to begin this weekend, many fans are figuring out who they should cheer for if their team is eliminated from contention. Some never expected their team to reach the postseason, while others had lofty expectations for their team and were sorely let down.
Playoff expectations are often skewed and unfair because it takes a solid team effort, along with a bit of luck, to see your team make it deep into the postseason. Having one superstar player doesn’t guarantee playoff success, just ask Alexander Ovechkin.
Some of these teams have accumulated playoff success to a degree, but that success has mostly been overshadowed by a barrage of failures. With that being said, here is a look at five teams who have underwhelmed in the playoffs.
5. Washington Capitals
Maybe Ovechkin was hoping that his guarantee would finally propel the Capitals into the next round. After failing to make it passed the second round during his ten seasons in the league, it seemed like the Capitals were finally going to be able to get over the hump.
However Ovechkin’s pride and Holtby’s heroics weren’t enough to carry Washington into the third round of the playoffs. They blew a 3-1 series lead for the fifth straight time in franchise history, and the second with Alex Ovechkin on their team.
You really can’t blame Ovechkin for Washington’s loss. He scored their only goal in game seven and battled hard throughout the series. All seven games were decided by one goal and it wasn’t a surprise that game seven ended in overtime.
Although Washington put forth a strong effort, it doesn’t ease their pain. They now haven’t advanced to the Conference Finals since 1998, when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final.
4. Vancouver Canucks
After hiring a new general manager and coach, along with adding new faces to the roster, the Canucks produced the same results in the playoffs. At the beginning of the season a playoff appearance by the Canucks would have been considered a success, but losing to an underdog Calgary squad changed that perception.
It was a similar result for the Canucks who have made it to the playoffs in 12 of the last 14 seasons, yet have only advanced past the second round one time.
The 2010-11 Canucks team was the only squad to accomplish that feat, and for Canucks fans it really felt like the year when they were going to win it all. They the lead in goals during the regular season, while also allowing the least number of goals. Throughout their 44 year history, it was the best team the Canucks ever iced.
It could have ended quite differently if Alex Burrows wasn’t around to save the Canucks bacon. Blowing a 3-0 series lead, albeit to the Blackhawks, would have cemented the Canucks legacy as one of the most underwhelming playoff teams of all time. Although they made a run of it in 2011, they haven’t found that extra gear in the playoffs since then. Their playoff record since 2011 is an abysmal 3-12, and the team faces more questions surrounding the roster heading into next season.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
Having two of the best players in the world on their roster can’t stop the Penguins from sitting in playoff purgatory. After advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals in back-to-back years, it looked like a dynasty was on the rise in Pittsburgh. Instead, they have only advnaced to one Conference Final, in a series where they were swept by the Bruins.
They are the only team on this list with a Stanley Cup, and that Cup win raised expectations in Pittsburgh. Lofty expectations in Pittsburgh are also the norm since Crosby and Malkin are on their roster. It’s become more apparent, especially since the implementation of the salary cap, that a deep roster will have more playoff success than a front loaded roster.
Some unfair punishment has gone Crosby’s way with the lack of success in Pittsburgh. He has totalled 118 points in 100 playoff games, proving that he is far from the problem. Malkin also has 111 points in 101 playoff games as well, although he didn’t get a point in Pittsburgh’s first round defeat against the Rangers.
After dominating their division for years, the playoff success just hasn’t transpired. They sunk to a new low this season by barely making the playoffs. Injuries have hit Pittsburgh hard over the past couple of seasons, and it’s revealed the lack of depth on their roster. They will have to address that issue if they want to turn their fortunes around for next season.
2. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks had the second-longest playoff streak in the NHL heading into the season, trailing only the Detroit Red Wings. However, they haven’t replicated any of the same playoff success that the Wings have produced.
Although they made the playoffs for ten straight seasons, they were never able to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. They made it to the Conference Final three times in that span, with a 3-12 record to show for their efforts.
Like almost every team on this list, they haven’t been able to translate regular season success into playoff success. They surpassed the 100 point mark in seven of the ten seasons that they made the playoffs. In 2008-09 they won the President’s Trophy, but bowed out to the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. They also suffered an embarrassing loss to the Los Angeles Kings in round one last year, after holding a 3-0 series lead.
The future looks a bit shaky for the San Jose Sharks. Thornton and Marleau are both 35-years-old, and their prospect pool lacks depth. It’s also unclear who will start in goal next year since Antti Niemi doesn’t have a contract yet, and Alex Stalock showing mixed results in a backup role. They also have to compete with two other highly talented teams from California, while the other four teams in the division have more prospect depth than the Sharks.
1. St. Louis Blues
The Blues are arguably the most underwhelming playoff team in NHL history. It looked promising for the Blues with three straight Stanley Cup Final appearances during their first three years in the league. However they were swept in all three series and have yet to reach the Cup Final since.
Over the past four seasons, the Blues have been one of the most successful teams during the regular season. They have one of the best blueline’s in the league and have forward depth as well. They even found a superstar goal scorer in Vladimir Tarasenko this season.
None of it has translated into any playoff success. Despite being one of the best regular season teams in the NHL, they have lost in three straight quarterfinals, and have bowed out in the first round during six of their last eight playoff appearances. They haven’t won a game in the semifinals since they recorded one measly win in their second round loss versus the Red Wings in 2001-02.
Could the Blues become the NHL’s next San Jose Sharks? They should contend for the playoffs next season and they have the roster to make it to the playoffs for the forseeable future.
Will they be able to actually make some noise in the postseason? It won’t be easy with many other competitive teams in the Central division, but expectations are high in St. Louis, and it would be disappointing to see them fail to muster any playoff success.
At the end of the day there can only be one Stanley Cup champion, but more was expected from the teams above.
KPU Journalism Graduate. Trevor has been writing for The Hockey Writers since October 2014. He has contributed articles related to the Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Canucks, and other issues/stories regarding the game of hockey. Trevor currently lives in White Rock, B.C.