Justin Williams, Antti Niemi

0-3 deficits don’t seem so impossible to overcome these days


The first time it happened was in the 1942 Stanley Cup Final. The Detroit Red Wings won the first three games of the series, only to lose the next four to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It happened again in 1975. This time it was the New York Islanders that fought back from 3-0 down, stunning the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round.

The third, and only other time, it happened was in 2010, when the Boston Bruins went up three games to none over the Philadelphia Flyers, only to lose the next four by a combined score of 15-8.

So yeah, it’s been rare. When a team digs itself a 3-0 hole, almost always it ends up buried in it.

Then again, it nearly happened again in 2011, when the Canucks needed overtime to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of their first-round series, which Vancouver once led 3-0.

And remember the 2012 playoffs, when the Penguins put a bit of a scare into the Flyers, turning a 3-0 deficit into 3-2, before Philadelphia triumphed in Game 6? The Devils did the same thing in the Stanley Cup Final, when they fought back from 3-0 before losing Game 6 to the Kings.

At the very least, those two series became interesting, and that’s exactly what the Kings will be trying to make their best-of-seven with the Sharks on Saturday in San Jose. Win Game 5 and things would definitely get interesting, especially with Game 6 set for Monday at Staples Center.

We are, after all, talking about a San Jose team that’s experienced its share of postseason letdowns. Just to throw it out there. (Sorry, Sharks fans.)

We’re also talking about a very different NHL than the one that existed prior to the salary cap. For all you young kids who may be reading, let’s just say first-round matchups in the current era are a touch different than some of the first-round matchups we saw back in the day when 16 out of 21 teams made the playoffs and actual dynasties still existed.

For example, in 1989, there wasn’t much confidence that the 79-point Hartford Whalers were going to come back against the 115-point Montreal Canadiens. And wouldn’t you know it, they didn’t. (Though they did push Game 4 to overtime, losing on a Russ Courtnall tally.)

Look, are we predicting a Kings comeback? Of course not. Even if the difference between L.A. and San Jose is far smaller than the one between the Whalers and Habs, the odds remain very much against the Kings.

But if they win Saturday, just remember we wrote this.

(And if they lose, oh well, we didn’t predict they’d come back anyway.)

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
AP Photo
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.