When Did Avoiding an Early Home Loss Become Winning a Seven-Game Series 2-0?

First thing’s first:  well done to the Vancouver Canucks last night.  They played a very solid final forty minutes and turned a 2-2 game into a 7-3 victory.

But now everybody is declaring the series over, and piling on San Jose because they lost a road game by a lopsided score.  It’s amazing to me how people have decided, in seemingly every sport that has a “best-of-7” playoff series format, that each and every series is 90 to 100 percent over after Game 2.  It’s simply incredible to me.  Because the Canucks actually didn’t blow home ice advantage yet, that means that this series is over.  I couldn’t disagree more, and I still think Vancouver will win the series.

This desperate need to declare a series over and bash the “losing” team has become an epidemic in our caffeinated society that no longer has the patience to consider the possibility that things might change from the way they are today.  Today, the Canucks lead the series 2-0.  By the end of the weekend, it could be over in a sweep.  Or, it could be 2-2, if the Sharks are able to do what most elite teams feel they should do:  hold serve in the first two home games.  The series could even be 3-1 in favor of Vancouver, which would follow the trend of the Canucks’ first two series.  Just wondering, but how did each of those home Game 5s turn out when Vancouver had the opportunity to close out the series?  Oh that’s right, both series went six anyway.  But there’s no way this series could possibly turn out to be decent, right?  And a six game series, by definition, is a good series.  That doesn’t mean that good hockey had to be played, but it means the losing team had that opportunity to push the series seven games, and therefore, it was a competitive series.  But, there’s no way the Sharks can make a competitive series out of this.  Not a chance.

Yesterday we looked at how in the previous two seasons, 75% of games at this stage of the playoffs and later are won by the home team.  That number held up perfectly through the first four games of the conference finals, as Vancouver went 2-0 at home, and Boston went 1-1, for a combined 3-1, or 75%.  If this number holds up over the next four games, then San Jose and Tampa Bay will combine to lose 1 of their 4 home games over the next four days.  So the sweep would be out the window, and there would be a 50% chance that Tampa Bay is the team that loses a home game, and both series would go back north tied at two games apiece.  I’m not saying this 75% statistic will always hold true, but I’m saying people need to stop declaring a series over after two games, because history has shown time and time again that situations change.

I realize that a lot of the Shark bashing today comes because of who the Sharks are — the team that always loses when it’s gut check time.  But, much as I’ve written about the misconception that Vancouver “chokes,” I think we should really look closer at this so-called San Jose “choking” problem.

We could go all the way back to the inception of the franchise, and I would get to show why 2004 was not at all a choke job, but I’d like to keep it based on post-lockout seasons.  One reason for this is that 2006 was the year the Sharks traded for Joe Thornton, and also because so much of the team that is relevant today did not play for San Jose prior to the lockout.

Since the lockout, only last year was San Jose eliminated in less than six games.  In each of the other four losses, the Sharks figured out a way to get two of the first five games, which should not be considered embarrassing.  Sure, losing a series is never good, but nobody before Chicago last year was able to put a shellacking on the Sharks in a playoff series.  Also, look at the teams San Jose lost to.  In 2006, Edmonton had already beaten top-seeded Detroit, and came within one win of the Stanley Cup.  In ’07, the Sharks were beaten by the Red Wings.  In ’08, San Jose dropped a disappointing six-game series to the hot Dallas Stars, who were the talk of the playoffs for coming together and displaying how to implement “playoff hockey.”  In ’09, San Jose got beaten in the first round by a nightmare 8 seed in the Anaheim Ducks.  I can’t see how anyone would have been shocked by that result, as the Ducks were only two years removed from being Stanley Cup champions, and sported the same roster, which was better than San Jose’s roster anyway.  Then came last year, when San Jose beat Detroit in five games before getting swept by Chicago.

So I would be failing to see where the unquestioned labels of “chokers” and “heartless” come from, except that I know how much of a fact-ignoring, non-reflective, mob mentality society we’ve become.  Don’t become one of the masses.  Wait and see, like all wise people do.

With all of this said, of course I think that Vancouver will win the series, because I thought they were a little bit better than San Jose coming in, and they already have a 2-0 lead.  But this is to say, “I think Vancouver will win the series,” not “this series is unequivocally over.”  I’ve seen way too many playoff series to say something that short-sighted.

And didn’t the old adage used to go something like, “A series hasn’t started until a team wins on the road?”  Come to think of it, that phrase had never been more popular that it was in the last few years.  I guess we have already scrapped that idea, or forgotten about it.  Decaffeination is dead.


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