Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Heroic Comebacks

A few days ago I was involved in an online discussion about the phenomenon of NHL teams coming back in playoff series from 3-1 down to force game 7. This was in the context of the Montreal-Boston series, which Montreal had seemed to have in hand before gacking up games 5 and 6. Specifically, we were wondering what tended to happen in game 7 of such series. Did the team that had led 3-1 tend to get its act together and win out, or did the team that came back and forced game 7 have the upper hand? There seemed to be only one thing to do. Here, then, is the list of best-of-7 series wherein a team has led 3 games to 1, only to end up playing game 7. Some observations will follow.

YearTeam With 3-1 LeadOpponentGame 7 Winner
2003New JerseyOttawaNew Jersey
2003VancouverMinnesota WildMinnesota Wild
2003St. LouisVancouverVancouver
2003ColoradoMinnesota WildMinnesota Wild
2002ColoradoLos AngelesColorado
2001ColoradoLos AngelesColorado
2000PhiladelphiaNew JerseyNew Jersey
2000San JoseSt. LouisSan Jose
1999PhoenixSt. LouisSt. Louis
1994NY RangersVancouverNY Rangers*
1992Minnesota North StarsDetroitDetroit
1991DetroitSt. LouisSt. Louis
1989EdmontonLos AngelesLos Angeles
1987PhiladelphiaNY IslandersPhiladelphia
1987WashingtonNY IslandersNY Islanders
1975PhiladelphiaNY IslandersPhiladelphia+
1975PittsburghNY IslandersNY Islanders+
1968St. LouisPhiladelphiaSt. Louis
1939BostonNY RangersBoston+
* = Stanley Cup Finals
+ = Series was at 3-0

  • The table has been updated to include the Montreal-Boston and Washington-Philadelphia from this season.
  • Out of 40 series, 20 have been won by the team who originally held the 3-1 lead, and 20 by the team that came back. So, you can for all intents and purposes flip a coin.
  • Astonishingly, for two teams that have been around since the NHL introduced best-of-7 series, this year marked the first time that Montreal has ever coughed up a 3-1 lead and gone to game 7, and the first time that Boston has ever managed to come back from 3-1 down.
  • Philadelphia is the worst culprit when it comes to giving up 3-1 leads, having done it five times. The Flyers have recovered to win three of those series.
  • The two teams that have most accomplished the feat of forcing a game 7 after being 3-1 down are the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Islanders, with four apiece. Vancouver has gone on to win three of those game 7s, the Islanders two. However, the Islanders deserve some credit for forcing a game 7 after being down 3-0 twice in the same playoff year!


Chorus said...

I remember the Edmonton Colorado series in 1998 as really cementing that rivalry, but I thought the Oil did it once against Dallas too... Must be wrong!

Chunklets said...

I think that the only time the Oilers actually beat Dallas in the playoffs was in '97, and it was in overtime of game 7, but IIRC the Oilers actually led that series 3-2 going into game 6.

The amazing thing about the Colorado series was that, after going up 3-1, the Avalanche scored in the first period of game 5 and did not get another goal in the rest of the series.

Chunklets said...
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