The NHL saw only two playoff comebacks from a 3-0 hole in a series during its first 58 years in existence, and throughout the history of all major North American professional sports that use a seven-game playoff format (NHL, NBA, MLB), only four teams have risen from the dead in dramatic fashion.
The Blackhawks have stunned the Canucks after dominating offensively and winning three-straight games. The Hawk logo seems is firmly embedded in the mind of anyone who wears that floundering whale crest, a mental stigma that looked to be soundly defeated. Vancouver’s effort to overcome its apparent fear of mullets (Patrick Kane) and Vince Vaughn seemed like a mere formality and a matter of dropping the puck just a few short days ago.
Chicago could complete their comeback with one more win during Game 7 Tuesday night, joining the Flyers to becoming the second team in two years to claw back from a 3-0 burial. If and when that happens, the now fragile Canucks fanbase can look back on a regular season in which their team consistently flexed the most offensive muscle in the league, and then went limp when the post-season pressure was at its lowest.
A simple perusal of the boxscores since Game 3 shows a stagnant offence, and a gold-medal goaltender who has been beaten down, and perhaps broken.
Breaking down the meltdown
- The Canucks finished first in regular season scoring with 258 goals, and led the league in average goals per game (3.58). Yet a dangerously potent offence that was powerful enough to earn a three-game lead has been outscored 16-5 since the beginning of Game 4.
- Going back a little bit further, the final goal to win Game 3 was scored by Mikael Samuelsson at the 6:48 mark of the third period. Over the next 134:48 minutes of hockey leading into last night’s Game 6, the Canucks scored two goals. On sheer time alone, that’s easily their most painful scoring stretch of the season.
- Ryan Kesler scored a career-high 41 goals this season, putting him in a tie for fifth in the league’s scoring standings. We’re still waiting on his first goal this spring.
- The Sedins have remained productive offensively, and have done their part to salvage an otherwise putrid unit, accounting for 25 percent of the team’s offence since Game 3. Although they may be scoring, the two-way game of Vancouver’s top line is lacking. The Sedins are a combined -13 since Vancouver’s spiral began.
- Alain Vigneault’s decision to bench Roberto Luongo for a potentially series-clinching game was odd, despite his performance leading into Game 6. If Cory Schneider makes that penalty shot save, and the Canucks hold on to win the game and series, does he start Game 1 of the conference semi-finals too? But the growing Luongo hate groups certainly have their ammunition. Luongo maintained a goals against average of 2.11 during the season and a save percentage of .928. In his sparse playing time after getting yanked twice since Game 3 and appearing after Schneider’s injury in Game 6, Luongo has a 3.67 GAA and a .792 save percentage. Yowsers.