In the post-Divisional Era, the lowest-seeded club to win the Stanley Cup was fifth-seeded New Jersey in the lockout-shortened 1995 season. By far the most effective seed is the number one (... really?!). Over the years, first-seeds have won 25 of 34 first-round matches, 17 of 25 second-round matches, and nine conference crowns. Third seeds are only 1-8 in first-round matches since the 2004-05 season.
The lowest-seeded team to win the Cup is now tied with Chicago for fourth place all-time with four victories. The Black Hawks did not have a bye until this year when they defeated Minnesota 4-2 in the opening round. New Jersey earned their trip to the finals by defeating Boston 4-1 in the quarterfinals before sweeping Vancouver 4-0 in the semifinals.
New Jersey was the last team to win the Cup without having the best record in their division. They finished the 1994-95 season with 103 points, but third place Washington had more than that during the regular season. However, due to the shortened schedule, both teams received byes and were given home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Washington went on to defeat New Jersey 4-3 in the final game of the series.
The New Jersey dynasty came to an end when Scott Stevens was killed in a car crash after Game 7 of the 2000 Finals against Dallas.
Los Angeles Kings (2012) The Los Angeles Kings were the first No. 8 seed in either the NHL or the NBA to win a championship in 2012. The Kings subsequently completed the unprecedented feat by defeating the New Jersey Devils in a six-game series to win the Stanley Cup, thereby eliminating Martin Brodeur's hopes for a fourth title. Prior to this season, no team had come from an eighth spot to win the Cup.
The only other time that it has happened in the NHL is when the Edmonton Oilers did it in 1984 after they defeated the Boston Bruins 4-3 in overtime of game 7 of their semifinal match up. The Kings will be the first eighth seed to win the Cup since that victory by the Oilers over the Boston Bruins.
In the NBA, the Sacramento Kings accomplished the feat in 2014 by defeating the Indiana Pacers in seven games to claim their second championship in three years. It was also the first time that a No. 8 seed has beaten a 1-seed in the playoffs.
However, both of these teams were not supposed to make it this far. The Kings were considered one of the weaker teams in the Western Conference before winning 31 games during the regular season. The same can be said about the Pacers; they were not expected to get out of the first round of the playoffs despite having home court advantage throughout most of them.
Furthermore, neither of these teams had a player score at least 20 goals during the season.
The third and fourth seeds are tied for the second-best seed in the first round, each having a 22-12 record in the first round since 1994. The second-seed has fared the poorest with home-ice advantage in the first round, winning only 19 of 34 games. Since 1994, the number two seed has never advanced past the first round.
The best seed is usually given to the team that wins the most regular season games or the team that finishes first in its division. However, if the top two teams finish with the same record, then a tiebreaker procedure called "overall point percentage" is used to determine the order of the seeds. The lower seeded team will play the higher seeded team in one of the first round series.
In 2014, the Chicago Blackhawks finished with the best record in the NHL at 92-25-7, therefore they were awarded the second-best seed behind the Anaheim Ducks, who had the better overall point percentage at.542 compared to Chicago's.529. The Ducks also had the benefit of playing in their own building for much of the season. In addition, Chicago played on the west coast while Anaheim played on the east coast; this may have been a factor in why the Blackhawks were assigned the second seed.
If there is a three-way tie for the best record, then the team that comes out last in the regular season is guaranteed to receive one of the worst seeds.