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For teams trailing series 3-1, long odds to advance

by Adam Kimelman /

The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings could be the first teams to see their runs in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs come to an end when they take the ice Friday.

Those teams trail their conference quarterfinal series 3-1 heading into games against the Philadelphia Flyers and Nashville Predators, respectively.

The Penguins and Red Wings aren't the only teams in tough spots. The San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks also trail 3-1 in their respective series.

So should those teams start making tee times? Or is there a real chance they can recover and still advance to the next round?

Well, it won't be easy. Teams down 3-1 in best-of-seven series in NHL history only have won their series 9.4 percent of the time (24 times in 254 tries).


That's only slightly better than teams that trailed 3-0 in their series -- like the Penguins and Canucks. Those teams have come back to win their series just three times -- the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1975 New York Islanders and the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers.

But for the five teams to come back form 3-1 holes, a lot has to happen. Having the home-ice advantage certainly helps, which works in the favor of the Pens and Canucks.

According to the website, teams playing Game 5 of a series at home when trailing 3-1 have won that series 11 times in 77 chances (12.5 percent). Their record in Game 5 in those series is 51-39 (56.7 percent).

The road for the Sharks, Blackhawks and Red Wings is a bit harder, considering they would have to win two of the three remaining games on the road to win their series.

Teams having to go on the road for Game 5 when down 3-1 have won just 13 times in 163 series (7.97 percent). Their record in even in extending the series to a sixth game isn't good -- 57-106 (35 percent).

So while the odds aren't in the trailing teams' favor, there is at least one bit of recent history on their side -- three teams in the last two years have come from 3-1 down to win their series without the benefit of having home ice: The Canadiens beat the Capitals in the first round of the 2010 playoffs, the Flyers beat the Bruins in the second round in 2010, and the Lightning beat the Penguins in the first round in 2011.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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