With Friday’s game six win at Madison Square Garden over the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers have clawed back from a 3-1 series hole and have forced a Game Seven. Earlier in this postseason, hockey fans marveled at the history made by the Los Angeles Kings, who became only the fourth team in NHL playoff history to come back from being down 3-0 in a series and win. Although the Rangers will not have a chance at making that same history, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit is also quite the improbable task to achieve. So the question is: can lightning strike twice this postseason?
When the Kings had their triumphant and impracticable series win over the San Jose Sharks in the first round of this year’s postseason, the odds were certainly not in their favor. Before their game seven, in 175 attempts, only three teams had ever returned from a 3-0 to win a best-of-seven series. That means coming into their game seven on the road, the Kings were attempting to become a part of the lucky 1.7 percent of teams in the history of the NHL to make this incredible comeback. Congruently speaking, the odds for the Broadway Blueshirts completing a return from a 3-1 hole on the road will be almost just as daunting of a task.
Since 1987, when the league playoffs changed to make all playoff rounds a best-of-seven series, only 24 teams have come-from-behind to win after trailing 3-1. In other words, the team leading 3-1 in a playoff series have gone on to win 90 percent of the time. Surprisingly, and luckily for the Rangers, taking game seven on the road after trailing 3-1 in a series appears to have made this formidable task a little bit easier. For example, although away teams have only won in the history of game sevens 40 percent of the time (61 in 152 tries), of the 24 teams to make this comeback, 13 have completed the task on the road (54 percent of the time). Looking at the numbers over the past 20 years and that percentage increases dramatically. Since 1994, of the 14 teams to comeback in a series down 3-1 and win their Game Seven, ten of them were able to do it on the road (71 percent).
In the first round of this year’s playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings were able to achieve a comeback down 3-0 in the series for several reasons: they were able to get back to their team strengths of puck possession and defense; were able to get scoring production from all four lines; and rode a hot streak from their goalie. Similarly, the Rangers have been following a similar pattern in route to their incredible comeback.
The Rangers have returned to their team strengths in recent games and have come out the gates firing on all cylinders, setting the tone of the game with their early pace. Getting off to a good start is a key for the Rangers success as in this series alone the team that has scored first is 6-0. The Rangers have also gotten scoring from all four lines in this series, which has proven to be successful as their top-lines have been struggling and juggled around. New York has three players tied for the team lead in points this postseason with eight and has a total ten players with five points or more. Both of these keys mentioned will be important for the Blueshirts coming into Game Seven, but probably the most important key of all will be the “King” in net. The Rangers are looking to make this amazing comeback due in large part to riding their goaltender’s hot streak. In the past two games, Henrik Lundqvist has posted a 1.00 GAA and a 97 save-percentage. New York fans hope to see that trend continue on the road in Pittsburgh tonight.
Since 1987, the New York Rangers are 7-1 in Game Sevens and the Pittsburgh Penguins are 7-5 (2-5 at home). That number, along with other stats, bode well for the Rangers. And given how the playoffs have shaped up so far this year, with an impeccable amount of twists, turns and history being made, it would not be surprising to see lightning strike twice and see the Rangers become lucky number 25 since 1987 to comeback from a 3-1 abyss.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles
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