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.
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?