How a Carolina Hurricanes comeback can break a decade-long pattern

After dropping the first three games of the second round, the Carolina Hurricanes have clawed their way back into the series with thrilling wins in Games 4 and 5.

This turn of events aligns more closely with pre-series expectations—a fiercely contested battle between two Metropolitan Division powerhouses. While the on-ice action reflected this with three one-goal games to start, the series score painted a different picture.

Heading into Game 6 on Thursday night, the Hurricanes have a legitimate shot to rewrite the script. As strong favorites on home ice, they could push the series to a decisive Game 7 with a third consecutive win.

For Rangers fans, this prospect is unsettling, but for hockey enthusiasts, it’s a rare and exhilarating spectacle. The last time a team forced a Game 7 after being down 3-0 was in 2014 when the Los Angeles Kings overcame the San Jose Sharks in the first round.

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It’s surprising that a decade has passed without another such comeback.

There’s arguably nothing more thrilling in sports than a comeback, a team rising from the brink against all odds. Recently, hockey has delivered on this excitement with numerous in-game comebacks, with even substantial leads frequently proving precarious. Yet, this comeback spirit hasn’t extended to playoff series. Over the past decade, a 3-0 series lead has typically been a death knell, offering little hope for the trailing team.

Remarkably, there haven’t even been any close calls—no Game 7s from teams down 3-0 in that period.

Given the increased parity in the salary-cap era, it’s surprising we haven’t seen more series comebacks. With 30 instances of teams being down 3-0 since 2015, 60 percent of those series ended in sweeps. Only four managed to reach Game 6, with last year’s Dallas Stars being the first in eight seasons to do so.

While the odds of a comeback from 3-0 are slim, they’re not zero. Even strong teams can fall into such a deficit. Pre-series odds have ranged significantly, with some underdogs and some favorites among the 30 teams. After dropping the first three games, teams had a 4 to 20 percent chance of forcing Game 7 and a 1 to 13 percent chance of winning the series.

On average, this translates to a one-in-10 chance of reaching Game 7 and a one-in-20 chance of winning the series after being down 3-0. Over 30 series, we should have seen at least three Game 7s and one or two comebacks, but we’ve seen none. This statistical anomaly is intriguing.

Some argue the human element plays a significant role, with teams up 3-0 often displaying the killer instinct to close the series, while those down 3-0 may falter under the daunting challenge. However, even accounting for these factors, the absence of any Game 7s or comebacks is statistically improbable.

From 2006 to 2014, teams down 3-0 managed to force Game 7 twice and complete comebacks twice, aligning with their odds. The last decade, however, has defied these probabilities.

Though it’s fallacious to assume overdue events must happen, the Hurricanes are closer than any team in the last decade to making it happen.

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For Carolina, the odds have significantly improved after their recent wins. They now have over a 60 percent chance of forcing Game 7 and more than a 30 percent chance of winning the series. For the first time in a decade, we are on the brink of witnessing history.

Despite the Rangers still being favored, the Hurricanes have a genuine chance to live up to their motto: “cause chaos.”

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