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March of the Penguins continues

chi-wbs08_400.jpgA week ago, it would not have been far-fetched to think the 2008 Calder Cup Finals would be heading back to Chicago for Game 6 with the Wolves on the brink of winning the championship.

But how we got here? That’s a different story.

After the Wolves grabbed a couple of close decisions on home ice to open the series, Chicago blew the Penguins out of their own barn in Game 3, scoring five times in the second period en route to a 6-1 victory and a commanding 3-0 series lead.

However, the old adage says that the fourth win is the hardest one.

Captain Nathan Smith’s bank shot off a Chicago skate was the difference in Game 4. The Penguins were in the win column.

Twenty-four hours later, a 1-0 second-period deficit turned quickly into a 3-1 lead and eventually a 5-1 win in Game 5. The Wolves had been 11-0 in the postseason when scoring first.

Won Finals after trailing 2-0
1991 – Springfield Indians def. Rochester Americans, 4-2
1972 – Nova Scotia Voyageurs def. Baltimore Clippers, 4-2

Won Finals after trailing 3-0

None

Won Finals after trailing 3-1
1949 – Providence Reds def. Hershey Bears, 4-3
1947 – Hershey Bears def. Pittsburgh Hornets, 4-3
1946 – Buffalo Bisons def. Cleveland Barons, 4-3

Won Finals after trailing 3-2
1987 – Rochester Americans def. Sherbrooke Canadiens, 4-3
1949 – Providence Reds def. Hershey Bears, 4-3
1947 – Hershey Bears def. Pittsburgh Hornets, 4-3
1946 – Buffalo Bisons def. Cleveland Barons, 4-3

Now both teams are back in Chicago, where momentum may be on the Penguins’ side, but home-ice advantage is decidedly the Wolves’.

The boys in burgundy have won six in a row at Allstate Arena, by a combined score of 26-10. Leading scorer Jason Krog, held to two assists in three games in Wilkes-Barre, has 24 points in 12 home games this postseason. Eight of Darren Haydar’s 12 playoff goals have been scored at Allstate. And the arena will be rocking come Tuesday night, with decibel levels challenging those of the jets taking off a stone’s throw away on runway 22 at O’Hare.

Still, the Penguins spent their weekend flying in the face of history. No team had even forced a sixth game after losing the first three games in the Finals, let alone win the Calder Cup. And there’s more:

  • Only two teams – the 1991 Springfield Indians and the 1972 Nova Scotia Voyageurs – have erased an 0-2 deficit to win the Calder Cup. Penguins head coach Todd Richards was a defenseman on that Indians club.
  • Only three teams – and none in the last 58 years – have ever come back from a 3-1 Finals deficit.
  • And although a 3-2 series lead may seem tenuous at best, only four of 31 clubs to face that hill in the championship round have overcome it, most recently the 1987 Rochester Americans.

It’s already been a record-setting series, with Chicago’s Darren Haydar becoming the AHL’s career leader in playoff goals and points, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Alex Goligoski setting the single-postseason mark for points by a defenseman, and tying the standard for points by a rookie.

In just a few short days, it will all be over. But the team drinking from the Cup at series’ end is not such a foregone conclusion anymore.

Game 6 of the Calder Cup Finals faces off at 8:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday night, with Game 7 (if necessary) following at 8:00 p.m. ET on Thursday. Both games can be seen live on NHL Network.