By Sarah Kwak
It’s a well-worn cliché of playoff hockey: The fourth win is always the toughest. And on Thursday night, Boston played into the old adage again, letting the Rangers keep a modicum of hope in their Eastern Conference semifinal series, which now stands at 3-1. Friday, Pittsburgh, holding a 3-1 series lead over Ottawa, got its first chance to advance to its first East final since 2009. But given the Penguins’ recent history of elimination games on home ice — they are 1-6 since Dan Bylsma took over in ’09 — Friday’s game presented an element of challenge.
Elimination games often do. Just ask the Bruins, the Canucks, the Sharks. During the last three years, they have each allowed an opponent to climb back from a 0-3 series deficit to push a Game 7. The 2010 Flyers famously pulled off the full comeback against Boston, which haunted the Bruins until they won the Cup a year later. Since 2010, the NHL has seen only three more occurrences of series sweeps than it’s seen 0-3 comebacks. So really, are elimination games actually more difficult?