Breaking News: Winning Playoff Road Games is Good!

Thousands of once-bustling ledges in New York City lay vacant and destitute after the Rangers shockingly won the first two games of their conference final series in hostile Montreal. While this is certainly bad news for supers who take bribes to "accidentally" leave the roof access door unlocked, it is a beautiful thing for the rest of us. Since the beginning of the first post-lockout era, the road team has taken games 1 and 2 of a conference final series 5 times. The results are completely unsurprising, though I'm the one with the answers here so I'm really just a big arrogant phony like Alex Trebek, but with better facial hair.

2013: Bruins @ Penguins
Last year's Cup runners-up pretty much trounced the Penguins, taking the first two games at Consol and finishing up what turned out to be an embarrassing sweep. The Bruins outscored Pittsburgh 12-2 over the four games, though they could not topple the Blackhawks in the finals. These segments are fun because I get to talk about Marc-Andre Fleury being a backup goalie.

2012: Kings @ Coyotes
The 2012 Kings Corsi'd their way to a couple of road wins against the ‘Yotes, who many felt were lucky to even be in the conference final. L.A. rode the magic rainbow of advanced stats to win game 3 at home, and sewed things up in another road win in game 5. They did us all a favor by beating the Devils in 6 games in the championship round. At least Torts spared us the torture of getting swept by the Kings.

2010: Blackhawks @ Sharks
At the end of the day I think we should all be glad we're not Sharks fans. They finally made it to the conference final after years of unmet expectations and then oh no what just happened. Chicago went all Jaws and brought a bigger boat to SoCal, stealing back the home ice advantage for themselves. They swept the Sharks fairly easily and took home the Cup after defeating Michael Leighton and the Flyers in 6 games.

2007: Senators @ Sabres
One drawback of researching things is that occasionally you stumble upon a repressed memory, like the 2007 Sabres. In this case, at least Ottawa did us a solid by depriving Buffalo fans the joy of winning even one more game at their home arena. The Sens won game 3 at home, and intentionally lost game 4 so they could go back to Buffalo and beat the Sabres again. Ottawa lost their extremely uninteresting bout with the Ducks in what was mercifully only a 5 game series.

2006: Oilers @ Ducks
I honestly have no recollection of this series ever happening. Apparently the Oilers went into the duck pond or whatever they call it took games one and two. The Ducks staved off total humiliation by winning game 4 in Edmonton, but were finished in the 5th game in Anaheim. Edmonton was bested by Carolina in an exciting 7 game Stanley Cup final that I don't think was watched nor even televised anywhere in the US, and they've held the first overall draft pick pretty much every year since then.

Some interesting things to note:

  • Every single one of these teams advanced to the Stanley Cup final
  • Only 2 teams ended up winning the Stanley Cup
  • Going back to 1994 (an arbitrary and unimportant year), 9 road teams took the first two games of the series; all 9 won the series, with 4 Cup winners and 0 game sevens among them
  • After winning games one and two, all 5 of these teams won game three at home
  • None of these series went to 7 games; all were decided in 5 games or fewer
  • Unrelated but interesting... the last Canadian team to win a Stanley Cup was Montreal in 1993; the Rangers won in 1994 (duh)

So what does this mean for us? I think history has shown pretty clearly that a team stealing the first two games on the road has a tremendous (bordering on insurmountable) advantage in the series. Obviously logic follows that a team leading 2-0 with the next two games at home would prevail a disproportionate amount of the time, but I was a little surprised that not a single team has come back from that deficit in 20+ years, particularly considering these teams are presumably one of the four best in the league for that year. In fact, only twice in this span has a team even come back to tie a conference final series, and in both instances they dropped games 5 and 6 without much of a fight.

Of course as Ranger fans, we cannot and should not feel safe with a lead of any size until the final buzzer sounds. Records are made to be broken, and this one feels ripe for smashing. Still, having two games at the Garden with a 2-0 lead against a 3rd string goalie while our own netminder has unleashed the icy gaze of Magnum is a wonderful thing, and there isn't any shame in feeling confident. Just don't go making any guarantees.

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