May 12, 2011
Playoff comebacks common because of parity
By BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency
SAN JOSE - A 3-0 lead in an NHL playoff series used to nearly guarantee a victory.
Not anymore. Certainly not lately.
The Detroit Red Wings became the latest to join the prestigious comeback club by pulling off a 3-1 victory in Game 6 Tuesday and forcing Game 7 Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks at the HP Pavilion.
Nobody was willing to give the Wings a chance to come back in this series after they lost the first three, but they didn't back down and made the trek to San Jose to see who gets the right to play the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference final.
The Wings became the third team in the past two years to erase a 3-0 disadvantage. The Philadelphia Flyers did it last year against the Boston Bruins and advanced to the East final, while the Chicago Blackhawks pulled it off in Round 1 this spring before losing Game 7 to the Canucks.
Detroit general manager Ken Holland said the Wings won't be the last team in the playoffs to get behind 3-0 and come back to force a deciding game. In fact, he predicted it will be happening a lot more often. Great news for fans.
"Teams are close," Holland said before the puck was dropped Thursday. "The other thing is the more it gets done, the more other teams believe it can be done.
"When teams were up by 3-0 (about) 20 years ago, the team that was up 3-0 was probably a way better team than the team that was down 3-0. There was no chance for that team to come back.
"Look, Tampa was down 3-1 to Pittsburgh (in Round 1) and (the Lightning) won three in a row. If you can win three in a row, and you're down 3-0, you're in Game 7. It doesn't mean you're going to win the series but I think you're going to see more teams that get down in a series come back."
Teams that lost the first three games in 112 NHL playoff series from 1976 to 2010 were unable to force a Game 7. It has become vogue with the Wings becoming the third team in the past seven chances to make it happen.
The reason is simple: Parity. Not much separated the top eight teams in the Western Conference this season. The Sharks and Wings were ranked No. 2 and No. 3 respectively. It shouldn't be any surprise this went the distance.
"I believe we will (see it more)," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "It's so evenly matched. When you look at the teams that are involved in the final eight in the West, you look at the point differential and it's so even.
"Nowadays, because of the history and teams doing it more often, teams believe a little bit more."
The Sharks were the team facing all the pressure in Game 7 because they were playing at home and they were the ones who blew the 3-0 lead. San Jose players were trying to keep the routine normal and make the best of a tough situation.
"It's not the ideal way to get to Game 7, but we're here," Sharks winger Devin Setoguchi said.
The Wings didn't quite feel the same way.
It's all about parity, Holland said. "We had eight more points than Dallas and they were in ninth place. We were a win every six weeks from being out of the playoffs.
"When other teams do it, you know it can done. There's so little to choose between these two teams. The first six games of this series were all decided in the last 10 minutes. It's a tough series."