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?
Pavel Datsyuk‘s future with the Detroit Red Wings and in the National Hockey League has been up in the air for a while now, as he’s linked to rumors of a return to Russia and the KHL.
His agent, Dan Milstein, recently explained to the Detroit Free Press that Datsyuk’s future should become clear in mid-June after meeting with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.
As per General Fanager, Datsyuk has one more year left on his current deal, which comes with a cap hit of $7.5 million.
From the Detroit Free Press:
“He would like to leave, but at the same time, he wants to make sure the Wings have options,” Milstein said. “He wants to help the team any way he can with the salary cap issue.”
Wings general manager Ken Holland has said there are no loopholes. Because Datsyuk signed his last contract after he turned 35, his $7.5 million salary cap hit remains in tact even if Datsyuk departs. The Wings’ only option is to trade his contract to a team such as Arizona or Carolina that could use the hefty cap hit in order to be above the salary cap minimum.
At the age of 37, his career in the league started in 2001-02, and has spanned 953 regular season games in which he’s accrued 918 points.
He’s had a highly decorated career, with two Stanley Cup championships with the Red Wings, three Selke and four Lady Byng trophies.
The St. Louis Blues need to win Game 6 on Wednesday, or their season is over. Who they decide to turn to in net is likely to be a talking point — heated debate, maybe? — leading up to that contest.
Do they go back to Jake Allen for a third consecutive start, despite the fact he allowed four goals on 25 shots in Monday’s Game 5 loss to the San Jose Sharks? Or, will head coach Ken Hitchcock turn once again to Brian Elliott, who started every single game from the series opener of the first round versus Chicago to Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.
Hitchcock at least felt that going with Allen over Elliott in Game 4 provided the necessary spark for his team, as the Blues evened the series.
But on Monday, the Sharks, on the strength of two Joe Pavelski goals, eventually overpowered the Blues for the win, moving San Jose one victory away from the Stanley Cup Final.
“I thought he was fine. I don’t know, those are decisions we make in a day or so. But I thought he was fine today. He stopped some point-blank shots, especially early, three times early,” Hitchcock told reporters.
“I don’t know. That’s stuff we’ll talk about tomorrow.”
The San Jose Sharks won a back-and-forth Game 5 to take back the lead in a back-and-forth Western Conference Final, moving one victory away from appearing in the Stanley Cup Final.
After scoring the tying goal late in the second period, Joe Pavelski notched his 12th of the playoffs to give San Jose the lead for good just 16 seconds into the third period.
The Sharks earned a 6-3 victory on the road, in a bounce-back effort from Saturday.
Twice, the Blues grabbed the lead. Troy Brouwer gave them the advantage in the first period, showing off his baseball skills by batting the puck into the net on a rebound. Robby Fabbri gave them another lead in the second period, making Roman Polak pay for snapping on Dmitrij Jaskin along the boards.
But the Blues couldn’t hold on. The Sharks scored twice on three power play opportunities and can now clinch the Western Conference on home ice in Wednesday’s Game 6.
As for the Blues, will Ken Hitchcock change up his starting goaltender again? It’s certainly an aspect of this series that will once again be up for debate leading up to Wednesday’s game.
After Brian Elliott had backstopped the Blues through the first two rounds and started the first three games of this series, Hitchcock decided to start Jake Allen in Game 4.
Allen recorded the win Saturday, and was called upon again in Game 5 as expected, but gave up four goals on 25 shots Monday.
San Jose Sharks defenseman Roman Polak took serious issue with St. Louis Blues forward Dmitrij Jaskin during the second period, as the two eventually threw off the gloves off in a fight in the corner.
In the process, Polak let his emotions get the better of him — he snapped — by also taking a roughing minor to give the Blues a power play.
The Blues made him — and the Sharks — pay on a blast from Robby Fabbri, who was a game-time decision for Monday’s contest.
The Sharks tied the game at 3-3 before the end of the second period on Joe Pavelski‘s 11th of the playoffs. Pavelski struck again in the third period, giving San Jose the 4-3 lead.