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Looking at teams who have come back after going down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final

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Ryley Delaney
1 month ago
Let’s be real here, a 2-0 hole in the Stanley Cup Final is not where you want to be.
For the first time in 18 seasons, the Edmonton Oilers are in the Stanley Cup Finals, and just like in 2006, they are down 2-0 after the first two games in the opposing team’s building.
In this article, we’ll look at teams that have come back to force a Game 7 after being down 2-0, as well as teams that have won the cup after being down 2-0. It is worth mentioning that 91% of the time, teams that go up 2-0 win, and the Dallas Stars in Round 1 have already overcome a 2-0 deficit.
Of course, other variables, such as the teams’ talent in the first round, can skew these stats. We’ll take a look at some stats after looking at these teams.

Teams that have forced Game 7 after going down 2-0

Since the National Hockey League changed to a seven-game format during the 1939 postseason, only six teams in 85 postseasons have come back from 2-0 down, just to lose in Game 7. The last time that happened was to the Edmonton Oilers. 
Game 1 saw the Oilers fall 5-4 after leading the game 3-0. The Hurricanes stormed back, took a 4-3 lead, before Aleš Hemský scored with just over six minutes left. However, Rod Brind’Amour’s 11th goal of the postseason with just 32 seconds left gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 series lead.
Game 2 was a lot less close, with the Hurricanes going up 2-0 in the series, winning the second game 5-0. The first game in Edmonton, Game 3, saw Ryan Smyth of the Oilers score with just over two minutes to help the Oilers win 2-1, making it a 2-1 series. Carolina returned the favour in Game 4, winning that one 2-1 to push the Oilers to the brink.
We all know the rest, Fernando Pisani scored a huge overtime goal in Game 5, the Oilers won Game 6 by a score of 4-0, setting up a deciding Game 7. Sadly, the Oilers lost it, no need to go into the details with that one.
Prior to that, the 2003 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim went down 2-0 and brought it to seven, before falling 3-0 to the New Jersey Devils. Looking back before the turn of the millennium, the 1987 Philadelphia Phillies forced a Game 7 against the Oilers, and the 1965 Chicago Black Hawks forced a Game 7 against the Montréal Canadiens. 
Ten years prior to that, the Canadiens forced a Game 7 against the Detroit Red Wings, and the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1945 nearly blew a 3-0 lead against the Red Wings.

Teams that have won the Stanley Cup after going down 2-0

In total, 11 teams in 85 years have either forced a decisive Game 7 or won the cup. Five of those teams have won the cup, and we’ll take a look at three of them.
1942 Toronto Maple Leafs
The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs weren’t just down 2-0, but they were down 3-0. This team was just one of four teams to come back from a 3-0 deficit and win the series in National League Hockey history, and the only team to do it in the finals.
I have my doubts whether anyone reading this article was alive during this series, much less watched it and remembered it. Either way, it’s a pretty cool factoid, and hopefully, the Oilers don’t need to come back from 3-0 down.
1966 Montréal Canadiens
The Montréal Canadiens are the only team to go down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals twice and win twice. The first time was in 1966, when they went down 2-0 to the Detroit Red Wings on home ice. 
However, the 1966 Montréal Canadiens were the only team in Stanley Cup history to go down 2-0 and not lose another game, winning the next four games, 4-2, 2-1, 5-1, and 3-2 in overtime in the Red Wings’ home stadium.
This won’t be the last time the Detroit Red Wings blew a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final. Let’s take a look at that.
2009 Pittsburgh Penguins
The generational talent before Connor McDavid was Sidney Crosby. In the year before, the Pittsburgh Penguins fell down 2-0 in the series with the Red Wings winning the first two games. After the Penguins won Game 3 by a score of 3-2, the Detroit Red Wings pushed the Penguins to the brink in Game 4, going up 3-1.
The Penguins won a 4-3 triple overtime battle to send the series back to Pittsburgh, but Sidney Crosby’s first bid for the Stanley Cup fell short, with the Red Wings defeating the Penguins 3-2. Admittedly, this was the first ever Stanley Cup Final I remember, and even though I enjoy Red Wings hockey in 2024, I was cheering for Pittsburgh.
Well, the next season, the two teams met in the finals for the second straight year. The last time two teams faced off in back-to-back finals was in 1983 and 1984, when the New York Islanders and the Edmonton Oilers did it.
Anyway, the Pittsburgh Penguins lost Games 1 and 2 for the second straight season, but managed to win the next two games (both 4-2) to make it a best-of-three series. Detroit dominated Game 5, winning 5-0, but the Penguins won the next two games 2-1, winning the Stanley Cup at Joe Louis Arena in Game 7.
2011 Boston Bruins
The last time a team went down 2-0 to force a Game 7 or win was back in 2011 when the Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games. There are also shockingly similar parallels through the first two games of this Oilers series.
At home, the Presidents’ Trophy Vancouver Canucks won Game 1 at Rogers Arena by a score of 1-0, being outshot 36-34, but Roberto Luongo had a terrific game. Former Oiler Raffi Torres scored with just 19 seconds left to send the Canucks home happy.
The Canucks went up 2-0 with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 2, as Alexander Burrows scored his second overtime goal of the postseason. This time, he scored just 11 seconds in, with the Canucks just two wins away from Canada’s first Stanley Cup since 1994.
Admittedly, I was a naive 12-year-old and the Canucks were my “playoff team” during that time, as I had never seen the Oilers in the postseason because I started cheering for them in 2008. So when I woke up the next morning, I was ecstatic that the Canucks were two wins away from the Stanley Cup. But then the series shifted to Boston.
The first two games of the series were close, but the next two were not. In Game 3, the Bruins routed the Canucks 8-1 after a scoreless first period. Future Oiler captain Andrew Ference scored 11 seconds into the second period, a period where Boston scored four goals. Hopefully, the Oilers can also have a game like this in Game 3.
Game 4 was closer… sort of. As the Bruins shutout the Canucks 4-0, with Vancouver putting 38 shots on Tim Thomas, who saved each and every one of them. For the third time in the series (but not the last), Game 5 saw a shutout, a 1-0 shutout, as Maxim Lapierre scored nearly five minutes into the third period to put the Bruins on the brink.
However, the Canucks were unable to close it out in Boston, as they fell down 4-0 thanks to four Bruins goals in 4:14 early in the first period, sinking the Canucks into a hole that they couldn’t get out of, losing 5-2 and sending the series back to Vancouver for a decisive Game 7.
It wasn’t meant to be for “Canada’s team” in Game 7 though, as the Bruins scored with just over five minutes left in the first period, the game-winning goal. They added on two more in the second period, before sealing their first cup since 1972. Canucks fans were not happy, but it was a riot of a series.

Some fun facts

In preparation for this article, I made a beautiful Google Sheet detailing all 85 Stanley Cup Finals series since the league made it a seven-game format. Here are some (maybe not so) fun facts.
Prior to Game 2, the broadcast noted that teams that go down 2-0 in a series only win 9% of the time. That’s pretty in line with the 54 Stanley Cup Finals that have seen a team go down 2-0, as 9.3% of teams that go down 2-0 go on to win. However, the odds of pushing it to game seven (or winning in six if you’re the 1966 Montréal Canadiens) is 20.4%.
Since the first NHL expansion in 1967, there have been 35 Stanley Cup Finals that have seen a team fall down 2-0. The chances of forcing a Game 7 decreased to 17.1%, while the chances of winning the cup decreased to 8.6%.
At the turn of the millennium, the National Hockey League expanded to 30 teams, and the odds have increased with parity. Not including the 2024 Stanley Cup Final, there have been 13 Stanley Cup Finals where a team has fallen 2-0 in the hole. Two of the 13 teams (2009 Penguins, 2011 Bruins) won the cup down 2-0, or 15.4%. The chances of forcing a Game 7 increased to 30.8%.
If we want a competitive series, say six games, there are 22 of the 54 series that at least went six games. As you know, 11 of them went to seven games or the 1966 Montréal Canadiens won the cup.
Unlike Katniss Everdeen, the odds are not in Edmonton’s favour. However, none of those teams had Connor McDavid.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Ryley_L_D.

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