Opening round of Stanley Cup playoffs full of surprises

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Upsets and surprises are a staple of Round 1 during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

They seem even more frequent — and stunning — than usual this season.

Washington, which had the best regular-season record in the NHL, trails Toronto, 2-1, in that opening-round series.

And that might not be even the most shocking development of this postseason, because the three clubs that finished directly behind the Penguins in the overall standings — Chicago, Columbus and Minnesota — all are one loss away from elimination less than a week after entering the postseason.

“You didn’t expect to see the series where they are,” Penguins winger Conor Sheary said Tuesday. “But that’s why you play the games.

“Whether you’re a [No.] 1 seed or an 8 seed coming into the playoffs doesn’t matter. It’s a fresh start.”

The Penguins, who can end the Blue Jackets’ season with a victory in Game 4 at 7:38 p.m. Tuesday at Nationwide Arena, are understandably pleased with how the series has gone, especially when a team like Chicago — a popular choice to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup final — is on professional life-support.