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January 17, 2019
Nothing to It but to Do It
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
I mean, what's the big deal? You're still only playing one team once a night. It's not like you have to win all four games on the same day against four different teams. Although, that would be pretty cool. Kind of like the All Valley Karate Tournament. They should look into it.
In past years, I reckon the big factor has been the vast disparity in the two teams. Even as recent as the late 1990s, there used to be a much greater gap in talent between playoff teams. Chances are if one club jumped out to a 3-0 lead, it was because they were far and away the better squad.
In 1987-88, the Calgary Flames led the NHL with 105 points. The Toronto Maple Leafs were the worst playoff team that year, qualifying with a whopping 52 points. Ten years later, in 1997-98, the Dallas Stars were tops in the league with 109 points. The worst playoff team, the San Jose Sharks, had just 78. But those days are solid gone.
Parity is alive and well in the post-lockout NHL. Only 10 points separated the No. 1 seed from the eighth seed in the Prince of Wales this season, and the margin was just 24 in the Campbell Conference. There simply aren't any dominant clubs these days. Anyone can beat anyone. So why can't they do it four times in a row?
Teams are wicked competitive. Even when a series is 3-0, the games are usually tight. One bounce here or there and it could be 3-0 the other way. It's only a matter of time before we witness something special.
The second round has certainly provided plenty of opportunities for history. Three of the four series started 3-0. Those filthy Red Wings have already swept the Avs into summer vacation, but the Rangers forced a Game Five against the Birds, and the Fish are headed to a Game Six in Dallas.
We'll find out later today if either team can continue its comeback bid. Personally, I think the Blueshirts are done. They emptied the tank the other night. I fully expect Pittsburgh to close 'em out in Game Five. The Sharks, on the other fin, are a different story. They might actually be able to pull it off.
Back in 2004, San Jose was on the flip side of things. The Sharks were enjoying a 3-0 series lead over the Colorado Avalanche in the second round. Joe Sakic rallied the troops, scoring OT winners in Games Four and Five to make things interesting. The Avs were heading back to Denver for Game Six, and everyone was poised for the improbable. The effort fell short, though, when the Sharks pulled out the 3-1 road victory to shut the door.
This time, the Fish are the ones making the late push. Dallas grabbed the 3-0 lead on the strength of two overtime victories, so it was hardly a one-sided affair. San Jose got back into it with a tight 2-1 road win in Game Four and a miraculous 3-2 triumph in Game Five.
The Stars had the coffin all but nailed, taking a 2-0 lead into the third period. Milan Michalek broke the seal at 6:20 of the final frame to provide hope. A little less than five minutes later, Jeremy Roenick fired an absolutely gorgeous lead pass through center to a streaking Brian Campbell. The maligned defender, who has been downright terrible for much of the playoffs, wired a wrist shot from the high slot over Marty Turco's glove to tie the game. Joe Paveski then piped a wrister high short-side on Turco just 1:05 into overtime to keep the Sharks swimming.
While San Jose remains on the brink, tonight will be an elimination game for both clubs. The Stars want no part of a Game Seven in the Shark Tank.
The Sharks are actually going about it the hard way. As the favored team, they'll have to win two road games to force the Game Seven. In comparison, the lower-seeded Rangers will need only one road win to stretch things to the limit.
That's why I don't understand how this doesn't happen more often. Game Sevens are always a crapshoot. Anything can happen. And if there is a Game Seven, it would seem the club with the three straight victories would have momentum, regardless of where it's played.
Sooner or later, someone will overcome the dreaded 0-3 deficit again. We've still got two chances to see it happen.
There's nothing to it but to do it.