The NHL playoffs are off to quite the start this year and it does not seem like it will be slowing down anytime soon. There have been a ton of surprises so far in the playoffs thus far. Whether it is the play of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are playing tonight for a playoff series lead for the first time in the history of their franchise, or the Flyers’ victory at Madison Square Garden, the first time in roughly four years, this year’s playoffs are unpredictable at best. However, nothing has been more surprising to fans than the amount of series leads that could easily be won by the team down two games-to-none.
In the history of the NHL playoffs, out of 291 best-of-seven series where a team has trailed 2-0, only 37 teams have come back to win the series (12.7 percent of the time). Those statistics do not bode well for the four teams down 0-2 in their respective playoff series. However, if there ever was a time to buck that trend, the time is now.
Ducks vs. Stars
(Ducks lead series 2-0)
The Anaheim Ducks are probably the safest team to bet on maintaining their series lead, but counting the Stars out already would be a major mistake. In the first game of the series, the Stars dug themselves into a 4-0 hole before making a late surge, falling just short of an epic comeback, losing 4-3. In the second game, the Stars played extremely well but lost another close game 3-2. The red-hot Ducks will be hard to take four games from over the next six, but if the Stars can play one game at a time, defend their home ice in Games Three and Four and capitalize on the chances handed to them, then winning two-out-of-three will not appear as nearly impossible to achieve.
Sharks vs. Kings
(Sharks lead series 2-0)
The Sharks have enjoyed the home ice advantage so far this series, outscoring LA 13-5 in those two games. But as history has shown between these two teams, this series will most likely go to a game seven. In the past 20 games against each other, the home team has won 19 of them. That does not look good for the Kings who have to take at least one game on the road from the Sharks in order to win the series. However, it does prove that this series is far from over. If history repeats itself- and the Kings defense decides to show up in this series- it is sure to go seven games. And if there is Game Seven between these two teams, throw all the old records out the window because in a winner-take-all situation, the only thing that matters is which team wants it more that night.
Avalanche vs. Wild
(Avalanche lead series 2-0)
This series has quite possibly been the most exciting one to watch. In just two games, Avs fans have clearly gotten their money’s worth from their tickets as they have seen some exciting play from rookie sensation Nathan MacKinnon. The Avalanche hold a two games-to-nothing lead, but this series could just as easily be tied. In Game One, the Wild gave up a late-tying goal with just under a minute left to play in regulation and eventually ended up losing three overtime periods later. Game Two was a game dominated by the Avalanche, who had no trouble shredding the Minnesota defense for multiple highlight-reel goals throughout the night. If the Wild can build off Game One and close out a game this time around at home, this series could easily sway back in their favor. However, if the Wild lose just one more game in these next two, Minnesota fans will most likely go into the offseason disappointed and with the repeating mantra of ‘what if’ playing in their heads over and over again.
Blues vs. Blackhawks
(Blues lead series 2-0)
As the body count continues to rise in this series, the Blackhawks find themselves down two games and without defensemen Brent Seabrook for the next three. This series has been the hardest hitting-and dirtiest- series of them all. Being down two games-to-none, to a team as bruising and defensively oriented as the Blues, is not an easy task to overcome. But keep in mind which team is down two games. The defending Stanley Cup Champions are finally coming back home in order to hopefully gain some much needed traction under their feet to go along with a major statement win. If there ever was a team this playoff season that could overcome a two-game deficit, it is the uber-talented Blackhawks. Both of these games have gone into overtime with the home team eventually winning in all of them. The Hawks do not appear to be a team too concerned about being down two games-to-none, as they have continuously pointed out that they could just as easily be up two games right now. Also, it is important to point out that the Blues held this same exact series lead last post season against the Kings before losing four straight.
If a fan has to choose an NHL playoffs team most likely to make a comeback this postseason, the Chicago Blackhawks appear to be the team to pick. With the Blues still being injury laden (especially if Backes cannot play), having given up a series lead like this before and having had to make two late third-period comebacks, the Blackhawks are poised for a comeback. The Wild follow next to possibly come back as the young Avs still have yet to officially win a playoff series together and Game One was an improbable comeback, which is unlikely to keep repeating itself. The Kings have made series comebacks like this before, but the Sharks look like a team that has finally turned the page and are ready for a chance at the Cup. Least likely to make a comeback would be the Stars, as the Ducks are on fire recently. Pair that with the fact that not a single NHL playoffs number eight seed has ever come back from a 2-0 deficit to beat a number one seed, and you have a recipe for disaster for the Stars. No matter how these series play out, they are sure not to disappoint.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles