Hope is one of the best parts of being a sports fan. You can believe, against all odds and a mountain of evidence to the contrary, that your team can get the job done.
Down 3-0 to the Florida Panthers in the second round, the Toronto Maple Leafs are badly in need of some hope. In NHL history, teams have faced a 3-0 series deficit 203 times. Setting aside the 199 times that teams failed to come from behind, there are four occasions that the Maple Leafs and their fans can look to for optimism.
Toronto themselves already have one 3-0 series comeback under its belt as a franchise, and two teams have accomplished the feat in the last 13 years. Let's take a look back at every 3-0 series comeback in Stanley Cup Playoffs history.
1942: Maple Leafs defeat Red Wings in Stanley Cup Final
The Maple Leafs have done this before, and they can do it again, right? It was 81 years ago, and there were only seven teams in the league but hey, it still counts as a 3-0 comeback.
The Leafs finished the 1941-42 regular season in second place, 15 points clear of the fifth-place Detroit Red Wings. Toronto was the favorite in the Stanley Cup Final, but Detroit was able to keep the Maple Leafs' offense in check for the first three games.
Down 2-0 in Game 4, the Leafs were finally able to flip a switch and get their offense in gear. Sweeney Schriner, Syl Apps, Billy Taylor and Don Metz found a rhythm and led Toronto to a 4-2 win to keep the team's Cup hopes alive.
From there, the Maple Leafs rolled over the Red Wings. Toronto won the final three games of the series by a combined score of 15-4, and the franchise won its fourth Stanley Cup.
The second 3-0 comeback in NHL history came 33 years after the first, and it also involved an Apps.
Syl Apps Jr. and the Pittsburgh Penguins had opened up a 3-0 series lead over the New York Islanders thanks to a strong offensive showing from the likes of Lowell MacDonald and Jean Pronovost. Pittsburgh scored at least five goals in two of the first three games, and New York was forced to make a change in goal.
In what would not be a sign of things to come, the Isles benched the struggling Billy Smith in favor of Glenn Resch, and the series turned on a dime from there. Resch won each of the next four games, posting an impeccable .969 save percentage.
In Game 7, Resch stopped all 30 shots the Penguins threw his way as he led the Islanders to a 1-0 win and an Eastern Conference Finals berth.
Because of an injury to Ilya Samsonov, the Maple Leafs will be forced to start another goaltender in Game 4 on Wednesday night. Can Joseph Woll or Matt Murray play the role of Resch and give this Toronto team a spark?
All 3-0 comebacks are dramatic by their very nature, but the Philadelphia Flyers' comeback in 2010 is one of the most dramatic in sports history.
The Flyers held a 4-3 lead over the Boston Bruins in the closing seconds of Game 4. Philadelphia was on the verge of staying alive when Mark Recchi scored with 32 seconds left to tie the game. That could've been the nail in the coffin for the Flyers, but they maintained their composure, and Simon Gagne scored with 14:40 elapsed in overtime for the win.
Early in Game 5, Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher got injured and was replaced by journeyman backup Michael Leighton. All Leighton did was pitch a shutout for the rest of that game before holding the Bruins to one goal in a Game 6 victory.
In Game 7, the Flyers could not have gotten off to a worse start. The Bruins took a 3-0 lead in the first period, but Philadelphia knew it could claw back from that kind of deficit.
Sure enough, James van Riemsdyk, Scott Hartnell and Daniel Briere all scored to tie the game at 3-3 heading into the third period. That's when Gagne came up clutch yet again. With 7:08 left in the third period, Gagne cashed in on the power play to give the Flyers a 4-3 lead.
Philadelphia held on from there to complete their epic comeback and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
It was an impressive showing of perseverance on the part of the Flyers, and the Maple Leafs will need to take notes if they are going to dig out of their own 3-0 hole against the Panthers.
This is really the tale of two Jonathan Quicks.
- In the first three games of the series, Quick allowed 16 goals on 108 shots against, good for a concerning save percentage of .852. The San Jose Sharks had Quick figured out... until they didn't.
- In the final four games of the series, Quick turned in a borderline superhuman effort. With the Kings on the brink of elimination in Games 4 through 7, Quick posted a .963 save percentage and a shutout.
Quick frustrated the rival Sharks while the Kings' offensive stars shined. Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Tyler Toffoli and Marian Gaborik all finished the series with at least three goals, and Los Angeles won each of the last four games by at least three goals.
The Maple Leafs need some of their star players to find a groove in Game 4, much like Quick did for the Kings in 2014.
Through the first three games against Florida, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander have combined for just four assists. That has to change for the Maple Leafs to become the fifth team in NHL history to pull off a 3-0 comeback.