History Lesson: How to come back from an 0-3 deficit

So the Canucks have put themselves in a rather notorious hole. Only three teams in NHL history have managed to come back from being down 3 games to none. How did they do it?

2010 Flyers vs Bruins

Both the the 7th-seeded Flyers and the 6th-seeded Bruins had pulled upset in their first round series and neither came into the series as overwhelming favourites. The Bruins lead for all but 1:39 of the first three games, while the Flyers achieved nearly the same feat in games 4 through 6, trailing for just 3:29.

In game 7, the Bruins lost on a late too-many-men call. The series was mostly a see-saw battle, only games 3 and 5 were settled by more than a goal. Even with the close scores, the series featured goals aplenty, the Flyers scoring 21 and the Bruins, 20. That’s a key difference between that series and the Canucks’ deficit against the Kings. I don’t think many would argue that if the Canucks all of a sudden can start scoring, coming back from 3-0 isn’t impossible.

1975 Islanders vs Penguins

(Photo: SI.com)

This first round series was just the second time an NHL team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. The comeback for the Isles was a shining moment for rookie goalie Chico Resch. Inserted in Battlin’ Billy Smith’s place for game 4, Resch gave the Islanders the goaltending they’d struggled to find in the first three games. So complete was the turnaround that New York didn’t trail for a minute after going 3-0 in the series. Their scoring, which had not disappeared in games 1 through 3, carried on.

1942 Maple Leafs vs Red Wings

The Wings’ famous collapse in the 1942 Final came about because Toronto coach Hap Day finally found a way to counter-act Detroit’s relentless dump-and-chase style. Day felt Detroit’s strategy was totally wearing out his defencemen and he figured that if the Leafs pursued the same strategy and turned around Detroit’s defenders, the Leafs would be able to beat the Wings at their own game.

At the end of game 4, Detroit coach Jack Adams (yes, that Jack Adams) jumped on the ice and attacked referee Mel Harwood, earning Adams a suspension for the rest of the series.


Well, for one, change your tactics. Be ready to adapt. There’s little doub the Canucks have been trying that. Two, change your goalie. Check. Three, score. That’s the rub, isn’t it?

  • Vintage Flame

    I keep up the slim hope. Maybe they rally from a 3-0 deficit and ride the momentum all the way to the Cup. It would be pretty epic and a surefire way to lose the loser baggage this team is saddled with.

    But it’s a very slim hope indeed.

  • Vintage Flame

    The other series to reference would be the 1994 first round series against the Flames – winning in OT three straight games. Of course four OT victories would be unprecedented.

    1942 to 1975 – 33 years; 1975 to 2010 – 35 years. I have heard comments about Chicago almost did it last year, the year after Flyers – so some suggest it will happen with more frequency. But I would point out that those 1975 Islanders almost pulled it off again in their next series, the 75 semi finals against the Flyers, losing in game 7 (after being down 3-0) to the eventual cup winners.

  • Vintage Flame

    If I were the Canucks, treat every game from now until the Finals as a Game 7 elimination game. Leave nothing on the table, pull out every trick you can, do whatever it takes to win. Don’t be afraid to take a penalty or get suspended for a high/late hit. Take it to the Kings and get every body into Quick’s crease that you can and whack at the puck. It’s bound to go in and if you can get some pucks behind Quick it might open the floodgates as Quick isn’t a very good playoff performer.