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THE FAR SIDE OF THE POND: Playoff Notes: Sweeps are for Brooms and Networks

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By Chad Huebner

1942 and 1975.

Every time a team is down 3-0 in a series, those two numbers are trotted out repeatedly. Any hockey fan worth his/her salt knows that those are the only years in which a team down 3-0 in a seven-game series came back to win it: The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup against the Detroit Red Wings and the 1975 New York Islanders in a Conference Semifinal series against the Pittsburgh Penguins (just in case you didn’t see this flashed on Versus for the 2,951st time).

The odds aren’t impossible that such a thing will happen again in our lifetime, but they’re very, very, very, very, very improbable. There’s no feel-good, Red Sox coming back to beat the Yanks and win the World Series for the first time in 86 years like with another sport. Once you’re down 3-0, you can pretty much stick a fork in yourself.

Personally, I’m not so interested in the odds of a team down 3-0 to come back; I’m more interested in the opposite: what are the odds of a team up 3-0 to sweep the series?

If I had oodles and oodles of time, I could probably go through every seven-game series ever played in the history of the NHL, and see how many teams closed out the series in a sweep. I’m sure someone out there probably has the numbers on this (and if they wouldn’t mind e-mailing me, provided you actually read this). I would think that the odds are getting harder and harder every year for teams to sweep a series. Out of the five instances in which a team is up 3-0 in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, only two of the five have won Game 4. In the last two days, San Jose and New York staved off elimination for one more day, while Colorado, succumbing to injures and to a 2006 Jose Theodore version playing in goal, gave up the ghost rather quietly in an 8-2 shellacking (more on this later).

In fact, since the 1987 playoffs, in which teams have had to win 16 games (four rounds, four wins per round) to win the Cup, no team has gone through the postseason undefeated. The 1988 Edmonton Oilers were the closest, going 16-2 during the postseason. The most losses by any Stanley Cup winner are nine by the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes. Most of the other winners during this 20-year span have lost about five to seven games in the playoffs.

So yes, it’s tough to win them all, especially when you have to win that fourth game on the road, in front of a bunch of rabid fans and against a team that finally wakes up and realizes hey, if we lose this we’re out of the playoffs (New York and San Jose finally had this epiphany this past week). But the champs don’t have to, they just have to win the ones that count, and not get so worked up about the ones they can’t win, okay Pittsburgh and Dallas? You were both due to screw up once, just don’t let it happen again.
With those words of sage (yet stupidly obvious) advice, it’s time to move onto the latest batch of playoff notes:


-Seriously, though, Franzen Wineries has a nice ring to it. If the Red Wings win it all, he could stamp a picture of the Cup on the bottle. Why drink champagne, when you can have a true winner? I’m available for marketing options.

-In the midst of the playoffs, we have the nominations for the NHL hardware. Each trophy has three finalists, so the big question was: after Malkin and Ovechkin, who else should be nominated for the Hart Trophy (League MVP)? Interesting to see Jarome Iginla get the nod. I mean, has doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Borneo, but it’s nice to see him get recognition for what he keeps doing, year in and year out, and that’s scoring goals (50 this year, by the way). His full name, according to Wikipedia (and if I’m wrong, just blame them) is Jarome Arthur-Leigh Tig Junior Elvis Iginla. So the question I have to ask is: Why not Elvis Iginla? Or Tig? Both very acceptable, and interesting, hockey names.

-I keep complaining about Versus not turning the volume up on their broadcasts, but perhaps I’ve been mistaken all this time. Game 4 of the Pittsburgh-New York series was on two channels on DirecTv, in case the game went to OT so Versus could show the Detroit-Colorado game on one channel, and the Pitt-NYR game on the other. I watched the Pitt-NYR game on the alternate channel, and the sound quality was much louder. So maybe it’s not Versus’s fault but DirecTv’s?

-What’s not excusable is the number of times Versus flashes stuff like “Game 1 West Semis” at the top of the screen. Something like 150 times a game. I think most of the viewer ship can figure out which game they’re watching at the time, no need to drill it into our heads.

-Okay, fine, Willa Ford’s right, the Dallas Stars should get more credit than they do. And I’m not saying that because she’s another hottie country singer that I won’t listen to, but will ogle all day long. Besides, her hubby, Mike Modano, will just brain me senseless with his stick.

-The saddest sight to see during these NHL playoffs was the Avs getting manhandled by the Red Wings. This wasn’t the same team that battled their way into the postseason and nearly won their division, which could have changed the course of their history greatly. The injuries were too much to overcome, and for some reason, Theodore reverted to his 2006 form and gave up a bunch of soft goals. Now can we say this is the beginning of the end of the Avs’ run? Or maybe they’ll just wizen up and put Petr Budaj in net next season.

-Congrats to the Rockford IceHogs (one of my “handlers”) and the Chicago Wolves (I wish they were, but for some reason, Judd Sirott, who was their PR/broadcaster guy, just blew me off a bunch of years ago) on making it to the second round of the AHL playoffs. Now the bad news: they have to play against each other. So who do I root for? Do I go with the Wolves as a regional choice (they play like 15 minutes from where I live), or do I go with the ‘Hogs for being the ‘Hawks’ affiliate? If either club is willing to “win” me over to their side with any number of “incentives”, that’s fine by me. Let the “War on I-90” begin!

Remember; e-mail me at for anything on your mind, hopefully hockey related. Best responses and/or questions will be answered publicly.