As you probably know by now, the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens have now knocked off both No. 1-seeded Washington AND defending champion Pittsburgh. Yes, the same Montreal team that lost more games than it won during the regular season (and don't tell us their record was 39-33-10 when the 10 stands for OT losses but there's no special column for OT wins). Yes, the same Montreal team that had a minus-six goal differential during the regular season. Yes, the same Montreal team that lost its final three regular season games and barely squeaked into the playoffs. So much of the game is momentum and goaltending. Sometimes too much of the game is based on those two things.
The Habs -- quite possibly the worst of 16 playoff qualifiers -- will now await the winner of a series between two of the other very mediocre playoff qualifiers. Boston and Philly are in a Game 7 now thanks to Philly rallying from a 3-0 playoff deficit. Those are your No. 6 and No. 7 seeds -- and another pair of teams that, when the overtime losses are factored in, were 39-43 and 41-41, respectively, in the regular season. So at the very best, a team with a .500 regular season is going to represent the East in the Cup finals. The only three teams still alive in that bracket are the three lowest seeds. Sure, the West has its big guns through. But if it feels like something like this happens almost every year in the NHL -- whereas the most direct comparison, the NBA, almost always gets down to among its worthiest teams by the time the conference finals roll around -- well, you're right.
Since the 2002-03 season, a No. 6 seed (or lower) has reached the conference finals in every NHL season except one. Twice a pair of teams seeded No. 6 or lower have played each other in a conference final (including Minnesota vs. Anaheim in 2002-03, when, if you'll recall, your Wild was actually the higher seed before score one goal in four games on the way to getting swept). This year, that No. 6 or lower matchup is assured again with Montreal vs. Boston/Philly. In that same span in the NBA, THERE HAS NOT BEEN A TEAM LOWER THAN A NO. 4 SEED that has reached the conference finals, and that only happened once.
We like upsets as much as the next guy. What we don't like is when they happen so often they're no longer unexpected -- and when they diminish the overall quality of the product.