Thursday, May 1, 2014

NHL Playoff Comebacks Trailing 3-0

Last night the Los Angeles Kings beat the San Jose Sharks to become the fourth team in NHL history to recover from a 3-0 series deficit and win Game 7. Last year three teams found themselves in the King's predicament (Pittsburgh, Vancouver, New York Rangers). None survived. Through 2013, only 3 times in 175 tries (1.7%) had a team comeback to win a series down 3-0 in the playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs were the first to turn the trick, doing so in the 1942 Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings. The New York Islanders followed 33 years later in their franchise first playoff run, catching the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1975 Quarterfinals. Finally, the Philadelphia Flyers did it 35 years after that beating the Boston Bruins in the 2010 Eastern Conference Final.

Breaking it down by round, teams have held a 3-0 lead 44 times in the Preliminary round, 62 times in the Quarterfinals, 43 times in the Semifinal, and 26 times in the Stanley Cup Final. 109 of 175 times (62%), leading teams took the series in Game 4. Of the 66 teams that have survived a sweep, only 8 (12%) lived to skate in a Game 7.

Once in Game 7, the aforementioned three teams (37%) completed the improbable comeback while the 3-0 series leaders won the remaining 5 times (63%).  Of these eight Game 7s, 6 were decided by one goal, 5 were won by the home team, and 2 were decided in overtime. Teams to lead a series 3-0 and eventually win in Game 7 include the Bruins (1939), Leafs (1945), Flyers (1975), Sharks (2011) and Canucks (2011).
The hockey gods looked favorably upon the Kings in their opening round of this postseason. Time will tell if they have the fortitude to capture the Stanley Cup as they did two years ago.

* See also NHL Playoff Comebacks Trailing 3-1.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Game 7 History.
* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff First Round Upsets.

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