The first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs has been super exciting! Which is pretty amazing when you consider half of these series could end before reaching a Game 5.
After Monday night’s games, there are now four teams that are facing 0-3 deficits: The Calgary Flames, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Minnesota Wild and, perhaps most stunning of all, the Chicago Blackhawks, a team with no less than three of the top 100 greatest players in NHL history.
Only four teams in NHL history have climbed out of that hole to win a series. That the last one happened in 2014, with the Los Angeles Kings going over the San Jose Sharks, probably gives these teams a little more hope that it can be done (as long as you’re in a series against a team that turns into a gelatinous substance when faced with playoff adversity).
So which of these four teams staring into the abyss has the best chance of not tumbling into it after Game 4? Which team could actually rally in the first round?
Glad you asked …
4 – Columbus Blue Jackets
The Situation: Down 0-3 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are without their best defenseman and their starting goaltender. Although now the Jackets are without their best defenseman, and their starting goaltender hasn’t shown up yet. So … even?
How Did They Get Here? After the Penguins dominated in winning two games at home, Game 3 was full of great action and big drama, ultimately ending on Jake Guentzel’s fourth goal of the playoffs. Sergei Bobrovsky, who may end up as the NHL’s top goalie this season, has a .897 save percentage and a 3.49 goals-against average.
Chances For A Rally: Unless the defending Stanley Cup champions completely fall apart in the next four games against a team that just lost star rookie defenseman Zach Werenski for the playoffs, the chances aren’t good. OK, granted, with Marc-Andre Fleury in goal, this is plausible … but no. It’s done. Sadly.
3 – Calgary Flames
The Situation: Down 0-3 to the Anaheim Ducks, with Game 4 in Calgary on Wednesday.
How Did They Get Here? Ryan Getzlaf did his thing in Games 1 and 2, backed by strong goaltending from John Gibson. Then Gibson was pulled in Game 3, the Flames had a 4-1 lead, and then watched their own defense blow it, as Corey Perry scored in overtime for the 5-4 win.
Chances For A Rally: The good news for the Flames is that these have been one-goal defeats, and the last two games really came down to the wire. The crushingly bad news is that to win the series, they need to win twice in Anaheim, where they’re now lost 29 straight games, including seven in a row in the playoffs. So thanks for playing, Calgary.
2 – Chicago Blackhawks
The Situation: Down 0-3 to the Nashville Predators, despite being a team with no less than three of the top 100 greatest players in NHL history.
How Did They Get Here? Pekka Rinne pitched back-to-back shutouts in Chicago. The Blackhawks blew a two-goal lead in the third period in Game 3 and then lost in overtime. They’re the second-worst possession team at 5-on-5 in the postseason. They look “old and slow,” which is another way of saying they’ve played a ton of hockey in the last few years. The kids aren’t ready for prime time and the veterans haven’t been able to take over a game as we know they can.
Chances For A Rally: The Blackhawks have rallied from 0-3 before, against the Vancouver Canucks in 2011, before losing Game 7 in overtime. So there’s that to build on. They’re also a team that’s seen every different color and shade of adversity in the playoffs through the years.
As Jonathan Toews said after Game 3, winning that fourth game is the toughest task for any team. The chances are very slim that the Blackhawks push a Game 7, but avoiding a sweep is likely if they can turn the neutral zone into quicksand for the Arvidsson-Forsberg-Johansen line. And hey, who knows: When you have a team with no less than three of the top 100 greatest players in NHL history, anything is possible.
1 – Minnesota Wild
The Situation: Down 0-3 to the St. Louis Blues, despite carrying the play in each game.
How Did They Get Here? Jake Allen wasn’t the playoff flake we figured he’d still be, and has built off a successful regular season turnaround to stop 114 of 117 shots by the Wild. As Bruce Boudreau said, his team hasn’t played poorly. They’re just up against a goalie that’s stopping everything, a defense that limiting high-danger chances and some fairly crap luck in the first three games.
Chances For A Rally: The best of the four teams, for the simple fact that they were a break or two away from winning at least one of these games. Allen’s in their heads, but one offensive burst in Game 4 would be like using the blinky thing from “Men In Black” to erase the previous three games.
Of course, ultimately, the bad news is that to rally from an 0-3 deficit, the Wild will have to win a Game 7. With Bruce Boudreau as their coach. In a Game 7. So, congrats, Blues.
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