blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: NHL Playoff Comebacks Trailing 3-0

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

NHL Playoff Comebacks Trailing 3-0

Three teams faced a 3-0 series deficit in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Winnipeg, Montreal, Minnesota). History tells us they had a 1 in 50 chance of completing the comeback.  Despite two teams surviving such odds over the past five years, none survived this postseason.

Through 2015, only 4 times in 181 tries (2.2%) has 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.
The Philadelphia Flyers were the third such club 35 years after that, beating the Boston Bruins in the 2010 Eastern Conference Final.  Most recently, the Los Angeles Kings became the fourth squad when they upset the San Jose Sharks in the 2014 Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Breaking it down by round, teams have held a 3-0 lead 47 times in the Preliminary round, 64 times in the Quarterfinals, 43 times in the Semifinal, and 27 times in the Stanley Cup Final. 112 of 181 times (62%), leading teams took the series in Game 4. Of the 69 teams that have survived a sweep, only 9 (13%) lived to skate in a Game 7.

Once in Game 7, the aforementioned four teams completed the improbable comeback (44%) while the 3-0 series leaders won the remaining 5 times (56%).  Of these nine 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).
Time will tell if any other teams can replicate the gargantuan task of winning four straight postseason games while facing elimination and join this list of historic list of clutch playoff performers. Rare air to be sure.

* 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.