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

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

NHL Playoff Comebacks Trailing 3-0

Three teams found themselves in a 3-0 series deficit in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Toronto, Carolina, Dallas). None survived. History tells us they had a 1 in 50 chance of completing the comeback, despite two teams overcoming such odds in the past twelve. 

Through 2023, only 4 times in 204 tries (2%) has a team comeback to win a series trailing 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 suit 33 years later, during their franchise first playoff run, uncharacteristically catching the Pittsburgh Penguins during 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 playoff round, teams have held a 3-0 lead 57 times in the Preliminary round, 69 times in the Quarterfinals, 49 times in the Semifinal, and 29 times in the Stanley Cup Final. In 125 of 204 times (61%), leading teams finished off the series in Game 4. Of the 79 teams that have survived the sweep, only 9 (11%) lived to skate in a Game 7.

Once in Game 7, the aforementioned four clubs completed the improbable comeback (44%) while the 3-0 series leaders won the remaining 5 times (56%). Of these 9 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 historic list of clutch playoff performances. 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.