It’s not an enviable position for the Boston Bruins to be in. They’re down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup finals to the Vancouver Canucks and since the expansion era began in the NHL in the 1966-1967 season only two teams have battled back from that to win the Stanley Cup. 25 of the last 27 teams that jumped out to a 2-0 lead went on to win Lord Stanley’s most prized possession.
The Bruins have already fought out of a 2-0 hole this year in the first round of the playoffs against Montreal. There the teams took care of each other on one another’s home ice through the first four games before seeing Boston win their final two home games in Games 5 and 7 to take the series, culminating with a Game 7 win in overtime thanks to Nathan Horton. But when it comes to the Stanley Cup finals, they’ll have to dig a bit deeper to find inspiration to comeback and win the series.
In 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins dropped the first two games of the finals to Detroit and fought back from being down two games twice in those finals to win the series in seven games. Evgeni Malkin helped lead the charge for Pittsburgh while Marc-Andre Fleury stood on his head to help keep the Red Wings off the board. Malkin’s play was so inspiring that he took home the Conn Smythe Trophy at the end of everything. Considering that Pittsburgh had to win twice in Detroit in the final three games of the series to do it makes their feat all the more impressive.
The first team in the expansion era to pull off the 2-0 comeback was, of course, the Montreal Canadiens in 1971. That year the Habs got down 2-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks before winning the next two at home in Montreal. Home teams would all win each game except for Game 7 when the Habs beat Chicago 3-2 to take the Stanley Cup thanks to the work of Ken Dryden in goal and brothers Frank and Peter Mahovlich on the ice. Captain Jean Beliveau would make that Stanley Cup his tenth and final one as captain of the Canadiens.
For Boston, they’ll need to draw on the legacy of those Canadiens legends who defended their home ice perfectly and gutted it out to win on the road in Game 7, something that’s only happened three times in Stanley Cup history. Those Canadiens, the 1945 Maple Leafs, and those 2009 Penguins are the only ones to pull that off. Sure the Bruins don’t necessarily have to go seven games, they could rattle off four wins in a row and end it in six, with the way they’ve been outplayed at times through most of the first two games, seven games makes far more sense to work things out.
Much like with those past teams it’ll come down to goaltending and Tim Thomas will more than have his hands full dealing with the Canucks attack the rest of the way. While he’s played out of his mind, he’ll need better support from his defense and hope that they can eliminate the mistakes and not come up with bad turnovers and penalties that can lead to goals. Don’t expect Bruins captain Zdeno Chara to dwell on what’s been a rough couple of games for him.
History has shown that it can be done and while it hasn’t happened that often, the opportunity is there for Boston to take but it starts with one win.
For the eighth time in NHL history a team has forced a Game 7 after being down 0-3 in the series. Detroit will attempt to be the fourth team to come all the way back after being put on the brink of elimination. While it’s incredible that they could swing the percentages of teams that come back from being down so badly to win to 50% should they pull it off.
While the Sharks will look to the Vancouver Canucks from this year’s playoffs for inspiration on how to get things done in Game 7, the Red Wings will be taking a look back through history both recent and distant for inspiration.
The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs were down 0-3 to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals that season. Thanks to the goaltending of Turk Broda, the heroics of Don Metz, and the leadership of Syl Apps the Leafs were able to accomplish the feat for the only time it would happen in the Cup-deciding series. While those days saw just a small handful of teams in the NHL, roaring back from the brink of defeat was still a rarity and the guts of that Leafs team set the example for future teams on how to get things done. Broda earned a shutout in Game 6 of that series while Metz earned a hat trick in Game 4 to light the spark for the comeback.
The 1975 New York Islanders weren’t one of the heroic Stanley Cup winners that made the Isles famous, but that team was loaded with guys who would eventually become legends on the Island and their comeback from 3-0 down against the Pittsburgh Penguins proved to be a rallying point for legends like Denis Potvin, Bob Nystrom, Clark Gillies, and Bob Bourne. While goaltender Billy Smith is the name guy on that team, the man who sparked things for them that year was current Devils broadcaster Glenn “Chico” Resch who coach Al Arbour put in to shake the team up. It worked as Resch led the Islanders the rest of the way through the series as the Isles dominated play on the way to delivering heartbreak to the Penguins.
Last season we all remember for the Flyers remarkable comeback that saw them roar back from down 3-0 in the series to beat the Bruins in seven games. Making that series all the more fascinating is how Game 7 itself played out. At one point the Bruins led the final game 3-0 only to see the Flyers roar back one more time and break the Bruins hearts all over again with it all starting with a James van Riemsdyk goal late in the first to quell the B’s momentum. The rest was history as the Flyers would chip away and win 4-3 in the game and the series.
For Detroit, should they get down early against San Jose tonight looking to last year would be ideal. Of course, Detroit has yet to show any signs of ever giving up in this series when they’ve fallen behind. The Sharks are more than aware of that now and they don’t need history from last year or even 60 years ago to teach them that.
While we don’t know what we’re in store for tonight, history shows us that anything can happen and if you’re someone that believes in things balancing out overall, you’re leaning on the Red Wings. If you’re a believer that the better team will win out, you might be leaning towards the Sharks. If the Sharks don’t clean things up a bit after sloppy play in Games 5 and 6, they’ll have an agonizing summer to think things over. Either way, the drama is set to be sky high tonight.