In case you lucked out and spent last night in a coma, you’re probably well aware of the beating the Canucks took in their first attempt to close out their series with the Chicago Blackhawks. You’re probably also well aware of the fear of collapse that’s set in among the Vancouver faithful — you’d have thought someone let Samson lean up against a support pillar.

Note: if you’re a heathen and you don’t get this reference, let this Lego re-enactment educate you. Ignore the dragon in the corner; it’s a liberal re-enactment.

Many have pointed to last year’s historic comeback by the Philadelphia Flyers (who clawed their way back from 3-0 down versus the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals), as evidence that the Blackhawks could still win this series, that a comeback could still happen.

It’s true: it’s not an impossible feat. As the Kurtenblog pointed out earlier today, it happens about once every 30 years or so.

[...] Pulling such a feat is nearly impossible. Yes, even though Philadelphia did it less than 12 months ago. According to Whowins.com, teams down 0-3 in a series go on to lose 98.1 percent of the time — of the 162 teams that have faced such a deficit, only the 1942 Maple Leafs, the 1975 Islanders and the 2010 Flyers turned the trick.

(You’ll also notice the 30-plus year gap between each, I presume. And that no team in NHL history has ever rallied from 0-3 down in the opening round of the playoffs: The ’42 Leafs did it in the Stanley Cup final while the ’75 Islanders and ’10 Flyers did it in the second round. )

As they say in Internet parlance, this. In the history of the NHL, only three teams have done what the optimistic Blackhawks now believe they can do. So, while it is possible, it occurs as frequently as the Saturnine mass forging of human souls, which fourteenth-century Europeans believed took place every three decades, in conjunction with Saturn’s rare solar alignment.

That is to say, it’s not very likely.

Here’s what’s more likely: we just witnessed a massive Chicago pushback that occurred at the same time as Vancouver, believing themselves to be in the clear, took their foot off the gas. They got walloped, in what amounts to a cautionary tale about relaxing in the postseason. That happens much more often than once every thirty years.

Need proof? If it’s an appeal to history that you need to calm your nerves, here’s a brief rundown of similarly meaningless playoff blowouts since the last time Saturn aligned with the sun, metaphorically speaking:

In 2010, down 3-0 to the San Jose Sharks, the Detroit Red Wings came alive, winning game four in a 7-1 blowout, led by a four-goal, six-point night from Johan Franzen. A lot of good it did. The Sharks regrouped in a hurry, taking the next game 2-1 and the series 4-1.

In 2009, The Montreal Canadiens mustered a blowout in game three of their series with the Philadelphia Flyers, scoring the first four goals of the game en route to a 5-1 victory. Only Simon Gagne’s third-period goal made this one even remotely respectable. Not that it mattered; it was Montreal’s only win of the series.

In 2008, in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the New York Rangers would prevent a sweep at the hands of the Pitsburgh Penguins with a 3-0 victory. The Penguins would snap to attention and close the series out in game five, but they apparently didn’t learn their lesson. In the Eastern Conference finals versus Philadelphia, they jumped out to a 3-0 lead yet again, before the Flyers mustered a decisive game four victory, defeating the Penguins by a score of 4-2. And, while that score doesn’t seem like a blowout, it’s worth noting that Philadelphia scored three times in the first period and held that lead until a late-game surge by the Penguins made it appear close.

In 2003, down 3-0 in their opening round series, the Boston Bruins thumped the New Jersey Devils by a score of 5-1. It matched their goal total for the rest of the series. New Jersey would shut them out two nights later to close things out.

In 2002, after dropping the first two games of their conference semifinal versus Detroit on the road, St Louis would bounce back for their first home game, shellacking the Red Wings by a score of 6-1. It was a blip. Detroit would win the next two games to close out the series in five.

In 1997, down 3-1 in the Western Conference final versus Detroit, Colorado would take game five in a walkoff, winning by a score of 6-0. It would be Detroit’s last loss before closing out the series in game six and going on to sweep the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Stanley Cup.

In 1996, in the first round of the playoffs, Boston would stave off elimination versus the Florida Panthers with a resounding 6-2 win in game four. Florida would close out the series in game five. Boston would remain the only team to score six goals on John Vanbiesbrouck in the postseason until the Stanley Cup Finals.

It’s 1995. Down 3-2 in a series against the Vancouver Canucks, the St. Louis Blues force as game seven in a laughable 8-2 victory. Vancouver goes on to win game seven. That same year, Chicago would prevent a Western Conference finals sweep with a 5-2 victory in game four over Detroit. Unfortunately, they would lose the next game in double overtime.

In 1994, Detroit beats San Jose by a score of 7-1 in a game six, only to lose game seven two nights later. It was the same thing that happened to them the year prior after they routed Toronto 7-3, only to lose the series.

In 1989, Buffalo would open a series with the Boston Bruins with a nasty 6-0 win. Boston would go on to win the series 4-1.

And finally, in 1988, in every one of the six series that ended 4-1, the eliminated teams scored five or more goals in their lone win.

Anyway. all’s I’m saying is history favours the Canucks.

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23 comments

  1. DanD
    April 20, 2011

    I am commenting now, and then going back to read the rest. Lego Samson re-enactment = amazing! I’m going to find a way to show that at the youth group I work with.

    That is all. Now back to reading.

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  2. peanutflower
    April 20, 2011

    Okay. That’s good then. I won’t worry. I wasn’t worried before, but now I’m REALLY not going to worry. I put my Canucks playoff scarf and my This is what we live for poster up, and I thought I was going to have to take them down as they had obviously jinxed the Canucks and caused this loss. Thanks for the reassurance. ;)

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  3. Dave
    April 20, 2011

    That’s about what I thought. Last night’s game sucked – but I had no illusions that it meant a guaranteed turning point for the series.

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  4. Karen
    April 20, 2011

    Lego Samson is awesome. And I haven’t even watched it with sound yet (due to covertly reading PITB while supposedly hard at work). I wasn’t freaking out before, and am feeling even more relaxed now. That being said, I may still supersitiously wear the same outfit tomorrow that I wore last Wednesday (game 1). Just in case.

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  5. Schneider's Teeth
    April 20, 2011

    I just hope that they win tomorrow because I’ll be there. Anyone going to Game 5?

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    • peanutflower
      April 20, 2011

      YES!!! at great expense I might add, from Victoria, but worth every penny

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  6. Andrew
    April 20, 2011

    *Steps back from the ledge, and puts down the partially overturned pool*

    Thanks, brother. Great work, as usual

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  7. Steve
    April 20, 2011

    Ha ha. Yet ANOTHER entertaining read from the writers of PITB! :-D

    Nice work.

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  8. Bart
    April 20, 2011

    Remember when the Wild came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Canucks in 2003? Their comeback started with a 7-2 ventilation of Cloutier.

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    • PetriSkriko
      April 20, 2011

      Keyword: Cloutier

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  9. vancityt
    April 20, 2011

    Phew~thanks for helping some of us flip the pool back and tidy up around the place. Still not sure I want to fill that pool with water again just yet. (Btw, did PITB coin that phrase? It’s perfect, at any rate.)

    By the way, with this sort of meme you have uncovered here, I think Malcolm Gladwell could write some sort of essay looking at that blip in the confidence.

    Great work, as always. Cheers.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      April 20, 2011

      The phrase “flip the pool” comes from the classic MTV cartoon Clone High, where a flipped pool is the culmination of an afternoon of senseless rioting. But I’d like to think we’ve helped propagate its usage.

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  10. whisky jack
    April 20, 2011

    And now again the olde cliche,
    “It’s just one game,” I hear you say.
    Although defeated seven two
    with six goals scored on bobby lu,
    “Expect a win come Thursday night,
    the Hawks will fold without a fight.”

    And once again the olde cliche,
    “It’s just one game,” I hear you say.
    Although the “D” was put to shame
    As were the forwards much the same,
    “Canucks will win and set things right,
    the Hawks were lucky Tuesday night.”

    And one last time the olde cliche,
    “Best win next time,” you hear me say.

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  11. Human Cannonball
    April 20, 2011

    Psh… my Lego video is way better than that (not really):

    http://youtu.be/YYOLLIL83Q0

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    • JS Topher
      April 21, 2011

      Not gonna lie… I rather enjoyed that! Thanks!

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  12. Pilsnerpunk
    April 20, 2011

    Never like to see the team get beat like that but hopefully the team learned something about not taking teams or games for granted. Also happy the team does not have to sit for 7 days.

    This series seems like a microcosm of Chicago’s season. Sometimes they have looked like the defending champs but overall they were very disappointing and clearly not the same team as last year.

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  13. Ryan
    April 20, 2011

    The Canucks should’ve had Lego Sampson playing D last night.

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  14. anon
    April 20, 2011

    On a tour of Florida, the Pope took a couple of days off to visit the
    coast for some sightseeing. He was cruising along the beach in the Pope
    mobile when there was a frantic commotion just offshore. A helpless man,
    wearing a Chicago Blackhawks jersey, was struggling frantically to free
    himself from the jaws of a 25-foot shark.

    As the Pope watched, horrified, a speedboat came racing up with three
    men wearing Vancouver Canuck jerseys aboard. One quickly fired a harpoon
    into the shark’s side. The other two reached out and pulled the
    bleeding, semiconscious Chicago fan from the water. Then using baseball
    bats, the three Vancouver Canuck heroes beat the shark to death and
    hauled it into the boat also.

    Immediately the Pope shouted and summoned them to the beach. “I give you
    my blessing for your brave actions,” he told them. “I heard that there
    was some bitter hatred between Blackhawk and Canuck fans, but now I have
    seen with my own eyes that this is not the truth.”

    As the Pope drove off, the harpooner asked his buddies, “Who was that?”

    “It was the Pope, ” one replied. “He is in direct contact with God and
    has access to all of God’s wisdom.”

    “Well,” the harpooner said, “he may have access to God’s wisdom, but he
    doesn’t know crap about shark fishing… how’s the bait holding up?”

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    • Nat
      April 20, 2011

      Ha…that’s pretty awesome.

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  15. anon
    April 21, 2011

    Statistics are a funny thing. Your 98.1% loss rate after being down 3-0 seems valid when the series is at 3-0. However, at the time of writing this piece the series is not at 3-0 any more. It is at 3-1. The statistics have changed. The relevant stats are now for a team coming back from 3-1. This is still small but not as small as coming back from 3-1.

    For the sake of argument, assume that the poorer team has a 40% probability (i.e. 0.4) for a win in each game (they are the poorer team if the went down 3-0). 4 wins in a row for this team would then have a probability of be 0.4*0.4*0.4*0.4=0.0256 or about 2.5%. That’s not far off the 1.9% you quote (i.e. 100%-98.1%).

    If the team comes back 3-1, however, the odds that the team will win the series at that point are now 0.4*0.4*0.4 = 6.4% – about 2.5 times greater. If the team battles back to 3-3 then clearly there is a 40% chance at that point.

    This is all under the assumption of about a 40% chance for the team down 3-0. Stats only gives you the average outcome when you repeat a situation many times – the mistake is to think that stats says something definitive about any one specific realization.

    Don’t get me wrong. At this point, the Canucks have a great chance to take the series – but no better than any team leading 3-1 in their series. The days of 3-0 are gone.

    Oh, and one more thing – GO CANUCKS GO!!!!

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  16. Tom
    April 21, 2011

    What’s with the “hidden due to low comment rating” on Bart’s post reminding us that the Wild came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat our Nucks in 2003.
    If PITB can cite all the teams who failed to come back from 3-0 down why can’t Bart gently remind us of our past? I hope this censorship is the Vancouver Sun’s doing not PITB’s.

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    • Harrison Mooney
      April 21, 2011

      Heh. Definitely not our doing. This comment engine hides comments that people dislike. I don’t believe it’s entirely necessary. If we really dislike a comment, we’ll just delete it, right?

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  17. Tom
    April 21, 2011

    Thanks for the clarification – as I suspected. PITB is an absolutely first class blog – my very first read of the day (before emails & other news). Anything that detracts from its transparency must go.

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