And no, it’s not because we want to have more to write about.  And no, we are not part of the ownership group who stand to make even more millions if the Sharks can extend this series to seven games.  And yes, we are really being facetious.  Or somewhat.  Please play along – there is method to this madness.

With the Canucks on the verge of their third ever appearance in a Stanley Cup Final, everyone is saying all the right things about finishing off the Sharks in five games so our heroes can rest up and watch the Eastern Conference combatants beat themselves up.

And certainly the logic of perfecting their killer instinct and finishing off the Sharks makes perfect sense, but you would be surprised to know that, for whatever reason, history shows that when it comes to the Stanley Cup Final, the path of least resistance can often be dangerous.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are unparalled in the history of team sport.  Lord Stanley’s celebrated mug is, by all accounts, the toughest trophy to win – requiring sixteen post season victories at a time when players have been playing for nearly nine months straight.  So again it would only stand to reason that by the time the two finalists get to square off, the team that has had the easier path to the final should be more likely to win. 

But it’s simply not true.  Not really even close to being true.  In fact, the opposite has been decisively true.

It has been 23 years since the league expanded its playoff format to feature four best-of-seven series to decide its champion.  And in that time, of the two teams battling in the final round, the team having played the least amount of games entering the final has won the Cup only seven times.  Even more striking, in the seventeen years since the Canucks last appeared in the final, the team that got there in less games has only won the Cup three times. 

Granted we’re not dealing with the biggest sample size here and the difference in games played by the finals’ combatants is rarely more than a couple of games, but the results are remarkable and indicative that the benefits of being battle tested outweigh the risks of being battle weary.

And while this flies completely in the face of the logic that a rested team is a more dangerous team, it does confirm that the Stanley Cup journey is about mental fortitude more than anything else.

So we don’t really want the Canucks to lose tomorrow, nor do we expect them to.  But if they do, the adversity of having to play another game or two (while still prevailing) is likely to help them more than it will hurt them.

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  1. TC
    May 23, 2011

    Even if the Canucks win in five, they’ll enter the finals having played 18 games. Both Boston and Tampa will play their 17th in their Game 6, meaning it’s not possible for either team to enter the finals having played more games than the Canucks anyway.

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  2. Mondo Bizarro
    May 24, 2011

    But the symmetry of the Nucks journey could be simply amazing –

    7 games in round 1 (to learn to win)
    6 games in round 2 (the lesson is being absorbed)
    5 games in round 3 (the instincts are awash with potential!)
    4 games to take the Cup – LESSON LEARNED. HISTORY WILL BE MADE!

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