So lately there have been a few threads about teams that look pretty bad on paper (montreal, ottawa for example) that play better than they look. I thought about this and is it really surprising? The NHL is a league with a lot of parity, so any team is able to beat any other one on a given night. I'd say it is even more true for the top half, then the second half of the standings. I'll take the East as an example (sorry I don't have much exposure to the Western teams), but I think we can even divide the Conference in 3 Tier 1: Tampa, Pittsburgh, Boston, Toronto, Washington are clearly the top teams with multiple star/elite players on them, Tier 2: Philadelphia Columbus, Carolina, New Jersey, Florida, New york Islanders are bubble teams that can surprise in both a good or a bad way. Tier 3: Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, New York Rangers, Detroit were pretty much penciled for bottom 3 of the league before the season. Now, we know how big the parity is in the league, teams in tier 3 are able to compete to a certain level with teams from tier 1 during the regular season and teams from tier 3 compete with teams from tier 2(on paper though, they look pretty worst). If we think about it, it would not be so surprising to see a team from tier 3 (maybe even 2 teams) to squeeze a spot in the playoffs, or be in the playoff race until the end. I wonder then, can we call it a "surprise" if tier 3 teams do "better than expected"? They can't do below expectations, and one of these teams will finish AT LEAST 12th, if not higher.