3 NHL teams already face must-win scenarios | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in Canada3 NHL teams already face must-win scenarios

Posted: Monday, April 21, 2014 | 01:18 PM

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Jonathan Toews, right, and the Chicago Blackhawks can ill afford to fall behind 3-0 in their best-of-seven series to the St. Louis Blues. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Jonathan Toews, right, and the Chicago Blackhawks can ill afford to fall behind 3-0 in their best-of-seven series to the St. Louis Blues. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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For all intents and purposes it is do or die for the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild.
For all intents and purposes it is do or die for the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild.

All three teams, who are in action tonight, trail their first-round series 2-0, and falling behind 3-0 would most certainly be fatal. Only three teams in the history of the NHL have battled back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were the first team to do it, falling behind 3-0 to the Detroit red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final, only to win the final four games. In 1975 the New York Islanders trailed the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0, but won their quarter-final series with four consecutive victories, and then in 2010 the Philadelphia Flyers stunned the Boston Bruins with four straight wins after losing the first three games of the Eastern Conference Final.

The Blackhawks are the defending Stanley Cup champs, but have thus far blown two late leads before going on to lose in overtime to the St. Louis Blues. Chicago players have been uncharacteristically chippy and undisciplined, and that needs to change if they are to get back in the series. They will play the next three games (if the series goes that long) without veteran defenceman Brent Seabrook, who was suspended for his late and high hit that injured Blues captain David Backes in Game 2.

Minnesota simply has not been able to skate with the high-flying Avalanche, who are being led by 18-year-old phenom Nathan MacKinnon. The top pick in last year's NHL Entry Draft has a goal and seven points in his first two NHL playoff games. Charlie Coyle leads the Wild with two goals, which is great for Charlie Coyle and not so great for his team that includes the likes of Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Matt Moulson.

The Stars are an organization moving in the right direction, but they have a tough task ahead against a veteran team like the Anaheim Ducks. The bad news for the Stars is the fact Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry finished fourth and 12th, respectively, in road scoring during the regular season. The good news is Dallas's top two offensive threats, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, finished seventh and eighth in home scoring in the regular season.

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Protecting the goalies

The NHL is right to be vigilant in protecting its goaltenders. There were times leading up to the past few seasons when it was blatantly obvious attacking players were doing anything they could to bump and disrupt opposing goaltenders.

That said, perhaps the league has gone too far.

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper was well within his right to question a goal by his team being waved off that would have given Tampa a 2-1 lead Sunday night. Referee Francis Charron, working the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time, ruled goalie interference and called back a goal scored by Ryan Callahan.

It was a weird play, to be sure, but there were many questions afterwards. Was Tampa Bay's Alex Killorn pushed into the Montreal net? Did Montreal goalie Carey Price make contact with Killorn and not the other way around?

As Price slid to his left with a Tampa Bay player seemingly about to shoot from the top of the faceoff circle, perhaps the case could be made he was not able to establish his position on the ice because he bumped into the Killorn. The problem is the puck went back to the other side of the ice and Price was able to slide back across the net. The bump with Killorn had nothing to do with the Callahan beating Price.

Where's the beef?

It says a lot about the Pittsburgh Penguins in this year's playoffs that defencemen Matt Niskanen and Paul Martin are leading the team in scoring with four points each after two games. On a team where the meat of the lineup includes superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin - who have each won two scoring titles - that is quite concerning.

Neither Crosby nor Malkin has a goal in the series. Obviously, there is no need to press the panic button after two games with the series tied 1-1, but each game the Blue Jackets win and each time they keep Crosby and Malkin from scoring, their confidence builds.

Did you pick these guys?

Be honest, did you pick Mike Brown, Raffi Torres, Matt Calvert or Brian Gibbons in your office pool? Probably not, and yet all four players, who are not known for their goal-scoring exploits, have made an impact in the early going.

Getting offence from the supporting cast is often the difference between winning and losing in the playoffs.

With the Los Angeles Kings leading 2-0, Brown, a grinder and fighter, scored his first goal in 36 games Sunday in Game 2 for the Sharks in their shocking 7-2 win. Torres tied the score five minutes later and now has goals in back-to-back playoff games.

Calvert, meanwhile, had two goals in Game 2 against Pittsburgh with one coming while the Penguins were on the power play. He had not scored in his previous nine games and had just nine goals in 56 regulars-season games.

Gibbons, a checker for the Penguins, had just one goal in his previous 24 games before popping a pair Saturday.

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