While much of the sports world focused last Wednesday on the third retirement of Michael Jordan, an NHL first was unfolding.
The Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings were being swept out of playoffs in the first round for the first time ever. Thus the Anaheim Mighty Ducks have transformed themselves from a 75-1 longshot to win the Stanley Cup to a legitimate 8-1 overnight.
"I think this would be the biggest upset since the United States won the Gold Medal from the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics," said Scott Ramsey, hockey oddsmaker at Las Vegas Sports Consultants. "That’s the only thing I can compare to this."
It wasn’t so much that Anaheim beat Detroit, after all each game was decided by one goal and two of those wins came in overtime. The shock was that Detroit was a —800 favorite to win the best 4-of-7 opening matchup against the Ducks, and that the Red Wings were favored in every game.
The Red Wings trailed 0-2 last year to Vancouver after dropping the first two in Detroit, then roared back to win four straight. That recent history explained why down 0-3 and facing elimination on the road, the Wings remained a solid favorite.
"We had Detroit -180 to win the last game and -250 to take Game 3," Ramsey said. "Goaltending is the great equalizer in the Stanley Cup playoffs and J.S. Giguere just outplayed Curtis Joseph in the nets. Detroit was loaded with future Hall of Famers. Now, they could be facing a major shakeup."
Detroit’s sudden departure makes Colorado the team to beat.
"Without a doubt, Colorado benefits the most," Ramsey said.
"The Avalanche are the most talented team in the West. Joe Sakic is back healthy and the team has been playing well since Tony Granato became coach in midseason. Avs goalie Patrick Roy may be the best ever in Stanley Cup competition."
At 8-1, Anaheim has gained its share of believers. However, the Ducks still have three more obstacles to clear and will probably remain underdogs.
"The Philly-Toronto series in the East is definitely the most compelling," Ramsey said. "The hitting is unbelievable. I think whichever team comes out of that one is at a disadvantage in the next round. Ottawa looks to be the best in the East."
Ramsey said NHL interest around Las Vegas seems to be comparable to other years.
"Losing Detroit may change that," Ramsey said. "The Wings have a lot of support. Hopefully, people will follow the playoffs. The games have been incredible and we still have the great story in the works with Anaheim."
Maybe the Angels can lend out that rally monkey.