Coming back in NHL bubble is unique task for teams down 3-1

Coming back in NHL bubble is unique task for teams down 3-1

When all four second-round series in the NHL playoffs tilted 3-1 through four games, players and coaches didn’t have to look far for examples of teams that have come back from that deficit — or let that lead slip away.

Boston goaltender Jaroslav Halak backstopped Montreal to a seven-game victory against Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington in 2010. Philadelphia coach Alain Vigneault was behind the bench for two of them, with Flyers defenceman Matt Niskanen on the other side in 2014 and 2015 and the second against now-New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz. Peter DeBoer led the San Jose Sharks back from down 3-1 a year ago against the Vegas Golden Knights team he’s now coaching.

“Everyone’s played in these types of games throughout their life,” said Chris Tanev of the Vancouver Canucks, who in Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson have players who were part of a 3-0 series comeback. “Maybe not in the NHL for everyone, but guys have played at high levels their whole life and they’ve faced elimination before.”

Just not while competing for the Stanley Cup in a quarantined bubble. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy predicted three weeks ago that series would end quicker because of the psychological element of players being isolated from their families and their lives back home.

It is a variable unlike anything before in hockey history that makes the climb back from being down 3-1 even steeper.

“For sure, this is new for everyone,” Vigneault said ahead of his team’s Game 5 Tuesday against New York (7 p.m. EDT, NBC Sports Network). “Obviously this is a totally different environment, but the focus needs to be the same. It has to be on that one game.”

While a 3-1 comeback has happened 29 times before in an NHL best-of-seven series, only one team facing that deficit in the first round even forced a Game 6: the Canadiens against the Flyers.

If none of these series go the distance, it will mark the first time since 1979 that the Stanley Cup playoffs didn’t have at least one Game 7 in the first two rounds. That was the year before the league absorbed teams from the World Hockey Association and Wayne Gretzky made his debut, and the first round was best-of-three.

Now 41 years later, not only does the sport look different, but games are being played without fans in Toronto and Edmonton. The time-honoured approach to mounting a comeback remains the same.

“We’ve just got to win one game,” said coach Travis Green, who guaranteed his Canucks would be ready to go in Game 5 (9:45 p.m., NBCSN). “We’re not looking at it like this is Game 7. We’ve just got to win one game. We win (Tuesday), we get to play another one.”

A handful of teams that went home last round felt the same way, even while acknowledging coming back in a bubble has its complications. After his team fell behind 3-1 to Colorado in the first round, Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said: “This whole bubble thing, it’s who wants to stay. You can tell who wants to go home.”

The Coyotes’ final two losses each came by a score of 7-1.

“It’s simply this, and it doesn’t guarantee you the victory, but you’ve got to really want it,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said after the Avalanche lost a one-goal game to get pushed to the brink by the Dallas Stars. “You’ve got to remember all the hard work you’ve put in for it’s over a year now: off-season training to the season to the pause, training, back in it again. Your guys have been invested for over a year to try to get after that Cup. You’ve got to really want it, you’ve got to be mentally tough and you’ve got to believe.”

Trotz, who coached the Capitals out of an 0-2 hole against Columbus in the first round in 2018 on the way to winning it all, said every team remaining in the playoffs believes it can win it all. Perhaps being a step closer will extend this round longer, and also the competition gets tougher deeper in the post-season.

“This team didn’t get to this point and hasn’t played us as hard as they have just to go away quietly,” DeBoer said of Vancouver. “Do I get the sense that teams are easier to eliminate because we’re in a bubble and they want to go home? I would say absolutely not.”

His players are taking it a step further. Veteran Vegas forward Reilly Smith concedes some cabin fever is setting in going between the JW Marriott and arena in downtown Edmonton, though with the Golden Knights one win away from the Western Conference final, they’re settled in for the long haul.

“We’re only halfway there,” Smith said. “It’s been a little bit over a month here in this bubble, but we’re expecting it to be probably another month still going for this group.”

___

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

___

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Employee at Bethany CollegeSide in Red Deer tests positive for COVID-19

An employee at a Red Deer continuing care facility has tested positive… Continue reading

The Government of Alberta has identified 1,828 new cases and 15 new COVID-19-related deaths, which brings the provincial death toll to 590. (File photo)
Alberta identifies 1,828 new COVID-19 cases on Friday

Central zone has 1,251 active cases

Higher sales of cannabis helped Canadian farmers come out in the green. (Black Press Media File)
Drumheller RCMP lay charge for unlawfully distributing cannabis

A joint forces investigation involving the AGLC investigation team partnered with Drumheller… Continue reading

Three weapons have been seized and four people are facing charges following a police operation in central Alberta. (Photo contributed by RCMP)
RCMP, Lacombe Police seize loaded guns, arrest four people

Four people have been arrested and multiple prohibited firearms are off the… Continue reading

The Salvation Army's 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign includes a new $5 tap feature for pandemic-friendly donations. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Salvation Army officers safe, touchless options for Kettle donation this year

The Salvation Army in Red Deer needs help. Kettle donations are needed… Continue reading

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

Montreal Alouettes' Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a “laggard” on homophobia in sports

Study finds Canada a “laggard” on homophobia in sports

Canada's Kadeisha Buchanan (3) and Mexico's Jacqueline Ovalle (11) battle for the ball during a CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying soccer match Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Edinburg, Texas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Delcia Lopez
Lyon defender Kadeisha Buchanan named Canadian Women’s Player of the Year

Lyon defender Kadeisha Buchanan named Canadian Women’s Player of the Year

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Andrew Harris celebrates his touchdown against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the first half of the 107th Grey Cup in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. Running back Andrew Harris, who was instrumental in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers ending their Grey Cup drought in 2019, tops the CFL team's list of potential free agents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Grey Cup MVP, top Canadian Harris among Winnipeg Blue Bombers potential free agents

Grey Cup MVP, top Canadian Harris among Winnipeg Blue Bombers potential free agents

24Toronto Raptors' Fred VanVleet (23) goes up for a shot agains the Boston Celtics during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Sept. 11, 2020.. Watching Connor McDavid let a slapshot fly or Fred VanVleet sink a deep three can be a salve to the soul of a sports fan run down by the difficult realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark J. Terrill
Bubbles are best: experts say return of sports risky as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Bubbles are best: experts say return of sports risky as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Coastal Carolina's Grayson McCall (10) scrambles past Texas State's Nico Ezidore (95) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in San Marcos, Texas, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chuck Burton
BYU presents tough challenge for Chanticleers, Canadian Makonzo this weekend

BYU presents tough challenge for Chanticleers, Canadian Makonzo this weekend

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, arrives at B.C. Supreme Court to attend a hearing, in Vancouver, on Friday, November 27, 2020. The U.S. Department of Justice is refusing to comment on media reports that its lawyers are seeking a plea deal of sorts with Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PM won’t confirm reports U.S. Justice Department seeking plea deal with Meng Wanzhou

PM won’t confirm reports U.S. Justice Department seeking plea deal with Meng Wanzhou

Alek Minassian is shown in a handout photo from his LinkedIn page. A psychiatrist retained by the defence will testify for a fifth consecutive day today at the trial for the man behind Toronto's van attack. Dr. Alexander Westphal says Alek Minassian does not truly understand the moral wrongfulness of killing 10 people, but says criminal responsibility is a legal opinion, not a psychiatric one. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
‘I know what I did was morally wrong,’ Alek Minassian told psychiatrist, court hears

‘I know what I did was morally wrong,’ Alek Minassian told psychiatrist, court hears

A look at what provinces and territories have said about COVID-19 vaccine plans

A look at what provinces and territories have said about COVID-19 vaccine plans

Most Read