History has typically been on the Carolina Hurricanes’ side in the playoffs. In fact, in all but one instance when Carolina has made the post-season since moving to Raleigh, they’ve advanced to the Eastern Conference final. The Hurricanes have never lost a Game 7, either, with their victory against the Washington Capitals a few weeks ago adding to the legend.
But Carolina is creeping into dangerous territory against a Boston Bruins team that hasn’t shown many dents in their armor since a slow start against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round, and now history might actually be the Hurricanes’ enemy. For instance, the last time Carolina started a playoff series down 2-0 before this season? They were swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 in the third round. And that’s where history starts to bring misery.
Prior to this season, teams that have gone 0-2 to start a playoff round have gone on to win the series just 50 times while losing 318. In the third round specifically, the record is 7-47. And the last time a team erased a two-nil series deficit in the third round was during the 1991 Prince of Wales Conference final, when the eventual Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins clawed out of an early hole against the Bruins. Only four members of Carolina’s roster were alive at the time.
The good news is that the Hurricanes are heading back home to the PNC Arena, where they’ve won all five home playoff games and six of their final eight regular season games. Teams down 2-0 in a series rarely come out with the series victory, but the trailing team has a 29-32 record in Game 3 at home, so it’s more even than you’d think. That’s especially important given that the prospects of a Carolina series victory will dwindle greatly if they can’t win Game 3. In fact, no team has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit in the third round in 43 previous attempts. So, while Game 3 isn’t a do-or-die contest, it’s as close as it gets for the Hurricanes without being an actual elimination game.
If Carolina is booted from the post-season this round, it won’t be all that unexpected, either. Generally speaking, upsets of any major magnitude are rare in the third round. By this point in the post-season, the craziness of the opening rounds has died down and the top teams have settled in. We’ve already seen other surprise first-round victors peter out, too. Carolina’s wild-card compatriots, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars, were sent packing last round. And other than the one outlier, the Hurricanes, the three playoff teams left standing finished in the top five of their respective conferences. The St. Louis Blues, who finished fifth in the Western Conference, only trailed the second-place San Jose Sharks by two points.
Don’t expect the Hurricanes to roll over, though. Carolina had a better Corsi percentage, shots percentage and created more scoring chances at 5-on-5 during the team’s four regular-season games against Boston, and the Hurricanes’ run to the Eastern Conference final has seen them overcome some significant obstacles. In Round 1, Carolina trailed the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals 2-0 before coming back to dethrone Washington in seven games. In Round 2, the Hurricanes squared off against one of the Eastern Conference’s hottest teams, the New York Islanders, and did so after starting goaltender Petr Mrazek fell injured.
However, with teams falling behind 2-0 in the third round having an all-time winning percentage of merely 14 percent, the outlook isn’t at all positive for the Hurricanes. But count on Carolina doing everything in its power to flip the script on Boston and ensure this spectacular run doesn’t come up short of the Stanley Cup final.
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