Can the Blackhawks follow in the 2010 Flyers’ footsteps by coming back from a 3-0 deficit?

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The Chicago Blackhawks raised a lot of eyebrows (and the blood pressure of many people in Vancouver) with their 5-0 win against the Canucks in Game 5. People aren’t buzzing about Chicago’s two wins as much as they are shocked by just how dominant those two games have been. It’s the kind of turnaround/collapse that underscores how fragile athletes can be.

So the question is: can they repeat the 2009-10 Philadelphia Flyers’ magic act against the Boston Bruins by coming back from a 3-0 series deficit? Let’s take a look.

History stands against Chicago.

Realists would point out that the odds are still against the Blackhawks considering the fact that only three teams in NHL history have ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. (Whowins.com points out that teams up 3-0 are 159-3 all-time, although I think that the Detroit Red Wings became No. 160 last night.) On the other hand, optimists will point out that the Blackhawks merely need to match what the 2009-10 Philadelphia Flyers did against the Boston Bruins in last year’s playoffs.

Ultimately, the Blackhawks can look at the 3-2 odds alone, though. Teams up 3-2 are 250-64 all-time, which means Chicago has improved their odds of winning this series from about two percent to about 20.

If you’re getting bored with obtuse numbers, I have a more fun exercise for you: let’s compare this Chicago-Vancouver series to that 2010 Philadelphia-Boston series.

How the two series are similar

  • In both series, the Blackhawks and Flyers fell behind 3-0 despite some close games. The Canucks earned two one-goal wins and one two-goal victory; the Bruins dominated Game 3 4-1 but needed an overtime win and another one-goal win to take a deceptively large lead. This is my long way of saying that the series were much closer than their 3-0 margins.
  • A major injury might be the turning point. In the Flyers-Bruins series, Brian Boucher’s injury allowed Michael Leighton to step back in and save the day. Brent Seabrook missed the last two games because of the Raffi Torres hit, but that injury might be part of the reason Duncan Keith is on fire.
  • Survival instincts: Both the Flyers and Blackhawks were fighting up until the last day of their respective regular seasons, making them quite familiar with must-win situations. (Sure, Chicago lost their last game, but they won plenty during the stretch drive.)

How they are different.

  • History: The Bruins and Flyers didn’t really have short-term baggage in their series, while the Canucks and Blackhawks have met three years in a row. Of course, this point actually works in Chicago’s favor, though.
  • Disparity: Despite their recent showings, the 2011 Canucks are (in my opinion) a much better team than the 2010 Bruins. They’re shaken up at the moment, but I still think that Vancouver is the team to beat.
  • Depth: The Flyers had a deep pool of offensive options while the Blackhawks must rely on a small handful of scorers. If Chicago’s going to keep it going, they’ll probably need their best players to keep carrying them along the way.
  • Canucks under pressure: Any team with a 3-0 lead is under the gun, but Vancouver is the Presidents’ Trophy team trying to win its first-ever Cup in its 40th season. They’re trying to shake a considerable monkey off their backs. Yup, that’s a ton of pressure, something that plays into Chicago’s hands.

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So what’s the takeaway from all this? The Blackhawks certainly have a chance to do this. History is against them, but psychology might be on their side considering all of Vancouver’s baggage. If they win Game 6, then the Canucks would have the weight of the world on their shoulders in Game 7.

Does that mean that it’ll happen? I’d still bet against it, but who even saw these last two games coming?

Michal Neuvirth gets Game 5 start for Flyers; Couturier returns to lineup

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With their season on the line on Friday night the Philadelphia Flyers are making a change in goal.

Michal Neuvirth, who has played just 59 minutes of NHL hockey since Feb. 18, will get the Game 5 start in goal when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Neuvirth replaced Brian Elliott in Philadelphia’s Game 4 loss on Wednesday night after Elliott gave up three goals on 17 shots, the second time he was benched in the first four games. The Flyers have already used three goalies in this series with Elliott, Neuvirth, and Petr Mrazek all getting playing time. None of them have played well.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

When healthy Neuvirth had the best numbers out of the group during the regular season, but health has been a constant battle for him the past few years.

The other big lineup news for the Flyers on Friday will be the fact that center Sean Couturier will be returning after sitting out Game 4 with a lower body injury. He may not be 100 percent, however, given that he took pregame line rushes on the team’s third line between Scott Laughton and Wayne Simmonds. Valtteri Filppula was skating on the first line alongside Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Among the other changes for the Flyers: Robert Hagg will replace Travis Sanheim on defense, while Dale Weise will play on the fourth-line instead of Oskar Lindblom.

Related: Penguins will not have Patric Hornqvist in Game 5

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Barkov, Karlsson, O’Reilly are 2018 Lady Byng Trophy finalists

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Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights, and Ryan O’Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres have been named as the three finalists for the 2018 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, the NHL announced on Friday. The award, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, is given “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

The winner will be announced during the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 20.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

The Case for Aleksander Barkov: The Panthers center certainly has the “high standard of playing ability” part down with a season that saw him lead the team with 78 points and finish tied for third in goals with 27. Barkov played the fifth-most minutes (1,743:32) among NHL forwards and only picked up seven minor penalties. This is the second time he’s been named a finalist in the last three seasons.

The Case for William Karlsson: Karlsson had a monster of a season with 43 goals and 78 points during the Golden Knights’ historic first year. In playing 1,534:47, the 25-year-old forward racked up only 12 PIMs. Should Karlsson win, he would become the first player to win an end-of-season trophy for a team in its inaugural season since Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers won the Byng and Hart Trophy and in 1979-80.

The Case for Ryan O'Reilly: O’Reilly missed one game this season and logged 1,686:10 of ice time for the Sabres. He recorded only one penalty all season, way back on Oct. 24 versus Detroit, a slashing call. His one penalty is the fewest among NHL players who suited up for at least 41 games this season. He’s a previous winner having taken home the trophy in 2014 while a member of the Colorado Avalanche.

2018 NHL Award finalists
Bill Masterton Trophy (Saturday)
Norris Trophy
Selke Trophy
Vezina Trophy

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Penguins, Jets, Predators look to advance

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Game 5: Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m. ET (Penguins lead 3-1)
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Call: John Forslund, Pierre McGuire
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Stream here

Game 5: Minnesota Wild at Winnipeg Jets, 7:30 p.m. ET (Jets lead 3-1)
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Call: Dave Randorf, Louis Debrusk
Series preview
Stream here

Game 5: Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators, 9:30 p.m. ET (Predators lead 3-1)
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Call: Kenny Albert, AJ Mleczko, Brian Boucher
Series preview
Stream

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Leafs ‘under the gun,’ especially Matthews and Kadri

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Nazem Kadri told reporters that he didn’t apologize to his teammates about the three-game suspension he received for a hit on Tommy Wingels, explaining that he was sticking up for Mitch Marner.

An apology might not be necessary, but the bottom line is that Toronto Maple Leafs fans likely expect a lot from Kadri – not to mention star center Auston Matthews – as this team tries to fight back from down 3-1 in their series against the Boston Bruins.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Letdowns

The Maple Leafs dropped two of three games with Kadri out of the lineup, prompting plenty of “What if?” questions, even if people merely wondered how different things would be if it was just a one-game suspension.

Regardless, when it came to last night’s 3-1 loss in Game 4, Mike Babcock didn’t mince words about Toronto failing to exploit the Bruins’ absence in the form of Patrice Bergeron.

“I’m assuming that he thought he was going to come tonight and dominate the game. That’s what I thought,” Babcock said of Matthews. “That didn’t happen …”

Auston not scoring often

Ultimately, Matthews has been limited to one point (the game-winner in Game 3) through the first four games of this series. That’s a disappointment for the NHL’s biggest jersey seller, especially since he showed nicely during his first playoff series, collecting five points during that memorable first-round bout with the Washington Capitals during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It’s easy to throw Matthews under the bus, and Babcock essentially admits that not enough was there last night.

Still, quite a bit of this comes down to bounces. Matthews has generated more than four shots on goal per game (17 overall) so far in this series, suffering with a Rick Nash-like 5.9 shooting percentage during this postseason. Such numbers tend to balance out over time; note that Matthews scored four goals in six games during that Capitals series on 16 SOG, good for a 25-percent shooting rate that would be unsustainable during an 82-game regular season.

There’s also at least some reason to wonder if Matthews is at least somewhat limited by the injury that cost him 10 games from Feb. 22 until his return to the lineup on March 22. As brilliant as he was (six goals, seven assists for 13 points in nine games), maybe he’s missing a few mph on his fastball against unforgiving competition like Zdeno Chara?

Either way, Matthews (and William Nylander) have struggled while the Bruins’ top-line forwards Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak find ways to feast upon the Maple Leafs’ mistakes.

Kadri has plenty to prove

Expectations will be high for Kadri, too, and his offensive numbers have been modest over a small sample size of playoff appearances.

So far, Kadri has generated two goals and six assists in 14 career playoff games, piling up 35 penalty minutes. At minimum, Toronto would like to see his finishing touch pay off a bit more in the postseason after the agitating center generated 32 goals in each of the past two regular seasons.

Much of that can be filed under “easier said than done,” particularly when Tuukka Rask is on his game.

Under the gun

That said, Babcock believes that players like Matthews and Kadri should “embrace and enjoy” the pressure.

” … No pressure means you have no chance. Go to the Olympic games, if you’ve got no chance for a medal there’s no pressure,” Babcock said during Friday’s press conference.

“Do you want to be that person or the person under the gun? I want to be under the gun. We want to build our program so big that we’re under the gun, we’re supposed to win. Like I said, I talked about those fans, we’ve got an unbelievable fan group. They expect us to be good. We want to be good. Let’s be good.”

Kadri, Matthews, and the Maple Leafs will get their chance to “be good” enough to keep this series alive in Game 5 on Saturday. You can tune in on NBC, with puck drop scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. Click here for the livestream link.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.