Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The psychology of the 3-0 series deficit

Being old enough to remember the Islanders digging their way out of a 3-0 hole, back in 1975 when I was much too young to understand that I was supposed to dislike them (my Dad liked them and I was just a kid - and things were different back then and ... well - I think I just got lost in this sentence and - I'd better start over (editor - Dave is bailing on this sentence - sorry for the inconvenience - we are starting over)

Take 2:. I remember the '75 Islanders coming back from being down 3-0 in a playoff series and winning - and then almost doing it again.

And now the Flyers have a chance to do exactly the same thing. And the thing is - this is not as hard as it seems.

Think of it this way. When you're down 3-0, you just have to win game 4 to stay alive. And you can win game 4. You're going to dig deep and make sure you don't get swept - especially in your own building. And there's no pressure. Your fans and the press have already written you off. You're finished. Your season is over.

Except your season really isn't over. You're like a dead man - but you're still walking. You still have a chance. You haven't lost - you're just losing.

So with the other team over confident - and half way hoping to win the series on home ice in game 5 - you steal one game in front of your home fans salvage some pride. And guess what? You're 3-0 deficit is now 3-1.

So far so good. Then you have to go on the road for game 5. And the weird part is - the pressure is now on the team with the lead. They want to finish you off at home - but in the back of their heads they are thinking "crap - what if we lose this one - we had a 3-0 lead". Instead of a party - game 5 now becomes a must-win game to avoid the start of a catastrophic collapse.

And while they are panicing - your team is still loosey goosey and - wham - you win game 5.

That is exactly where the Flyers find themselves today. Plus, with Boucher hurt - they now have a rested and suddenly hot Michael Leighton in goal that the Bruins have not found a way to score on yet.

At this point the momentum has swung completely the Flyers' way.

- they are at home
- they have won 2 straight
- it's now been a long time since the Bruins have won a hockey game
- the pressure is now even higher on Boston - they are on the verge of losing a 3 game lead in a playoff series.

So any way you look at it - game 6 favors the Flyers. And the Bruins are feeling dazed and confused and wonder what just happened.

Meanwhile, the other Pennsylvania team - the Penguins - the defending champs - face a game 7 tonight at home to Montreal. We are rooting hard for the Habs. They've got great team defense and the better goaltender. It would be great to see a proud Canada team get to round three.

Looks like a good hockey night tonight.

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