Think Stanley Cup Finals are Over? Check Post-Lockout History

The Vancouver Canucks must play tonight’s Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals in Boston as if it was Game 7.  Yes, the Canucks have a 2-0 series lead, but since the NHL returned from the lockout in 2005, we have seen home teams go 12-0 in Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup finals.  So, why the need for urgency?  Because all of those teams have hit the road with their 2-0 series lead and promptly lost Game 3.

Here’s the breakdown:

Playoff Year
Road Team w/ 2-0 Lead
Home Team w/ 0-2 Deficit
Game 3 Result
Series Result
Oilers 2-1
Canes in 7
Senators 5-3
Ducks in 5
Penguins 3-2
Red Wings in 6
Penguins 4-2
Penguins in 7
Flyers 4-3
Blackhawks in 6

That series-shifting third game takes place tonight in Boston, where the Bruins will be looking to continue this annual trend of lower seeds cutting their series deficits in half in front of their rabid home crowds.

In order to do so, I don’t think the Bruins need to categorically change anything.  One thing everyone is talking about is the poor outing Saturday night by the big captain, Zdeno Chara, but the Slovakian defenseman is still a very important player for the Bruins, and one that I believe they can count on tonight.  Boston went on the road for two games against the team that everyone on the continent has anointed as the future Cup champs since the calendar turned, and the B’s made a good account of themselves.  They hung in there as far as shots on goal go: Boston was outshot only 67-66 over both games.  That means both teams are averaging a healthy 11 shots per period.
But just because the Bruins have recent history and desperation on their side doesn’t mean that tonight’s win is just going to fall into their laps.  Vancouver knows how to tighten the vice, as they have flown back home for Game 5 with a 3-1 lead in all three of their playoff series this year.  In truth, the 3-1 result is all Vancouver really wants; a split is all any road team ever wants coming in.  There’s no reason to fear three games for the Stanley Cup, especially with two being played in their own building.  But the easiest way to guarantee at least that 3-1 result is to win tonight, and be able to enter Game 4 on Wednesday with pretty much no pressure.  Sure, there would be the excitement of potentially winning the greatest prize in sports, but not pressure per se.  At least, not until they lose a game.
Both teams just need to keep doing what they’re doing, and whoever does that best will win Game 3.  Could this be the game where Vancouver’s power play dominates, or will Tim Thomas backstop Boston to another home win, as he has done in seven of the Bruins’ last eight home games?  Only time will tell, but Vancouver held up its end of the post-lockout trend-extending bargain by winning the opening two games at home.  Now it’s time for Boston to do its part in making home teams 6-0 in Game 3s of the finals since 2006, and give us a series to get excited about.  If the Bruins can do that, we can put words like “sweep” and “clinching” on ice for a while, and instead get amped up for a “pivotal” Game 4 on Wednesday.  Because, you know, all Game 4s in a 2-1 series are “pivotal,” if they’re anything at all.

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