There’s no question the New Jersey Devils, now trailing by two games in the Stanley Cup finals, aren’t in a very desirable spot.
They’re also, as the team with home ice advantage to start the series, in a pretty unique one.
Consider that this year’s finals between the Devils and Los Angeles Kings is the 73rd best-of-seven finals series since the NHL moved to the format in 1939.
In the first 72, teams took a 2-0 lead in 47 of them, or about two-thirds of the time. Only 11 of those, however, were leads for the team that played those first two games on the road.
Finals breakdown (first two games):
Teams tie 1-1: 34.7%
Home team 2-0: 50%
Visiting team 2-0: 15.2%
(As an aside: It’s been that kind of year for road teams in the NHL, with teams tying a league record with 46 playoff games won on the road and still another two to five games to go in the finals. Home teams have only a 43.9 per cent win percentage in this postseason.)
When teams trail 2-0 in the finals
So how have teams fared in the Devils position in the past?
Overall, teams down 2-0 in the finals have a 5-42 series record all-time (10.6 per cent win percentage) but they win Game 3 roughly 47 per cent of the time.
Last year’s Boston Bruins and the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins are both good examples of teams that have come back after losing the first two games.
Teams that were down after losing the first two games at home, however, are 2-9 all-time, winning their series 18 per cent of the time.
The last team in this situation was the 1997 Philadelphia Flyers, who had home ice advantage, lost twice at home and were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.
That’s pretty common. After dropping the first two games at home, the trailing team has won Game 3 on the road only twice – and both times that happened, they won the series.
So when was the last time a team went on the road in Game 3 down 0-2 and ended up winning the series? That would be the Montreal Canadiens way back in 1966, nearly 50 years ago.
It almost goes without saying given the likelihood of coming back from down 3-0, but the Devils basically have to win Monday night to have a hope in this series. And while their odds now are pretty slim, they can take heart in the fact it’s been done before.