The NHL playoffs have been thisclose all the way

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Depending on how the numbers are crunched, a compelling case can be made that the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks both have the edge going into their improbable Game 7.

In a playoff season full of overtimes, one-goal games, and road wins, this one truly is a toss-up.

San Jose can look to the fact that only three NHL teams have blown a 3-0 lead and failed to advance, but Detroit can shoot holes in that one by simply mentioning that the Philadelphia Flyers did it last year against Boston. The Red Wings are the second team in this wide-open playoff season to force a Game 7 after dropping the first three games _ a rarity in itself.

Chicago took Presidents’ Trophy-winning Vancouver to the brink in the first round, and the Blackhawks nearly kept alive hopes of repeating as Stanley Cup champions, but fell short of joining the short list of ultimate underdogs when they lost in overtime of Game 7 after winning three straight.

Ah yes, overtime.

There have been lots of those games in this year’s playoffs _ 20 in the first 69 games. Here is where you can add a check mark in the Sharks‘ column. San Jose is 5-0 in overtime in this postseason, including two wins against Detroit as it built what seemed to be an insurmountable lead.

“They’re having a good run,” Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said of the Sharks. “Once you start winning a few games in overtime you start believing in yourself.”

Even though three NHL teams have come all the way back _ the most among the major North American leagues _ the odds are still astronomical. Between 1976 and 2010, of the 112 series in which a team led 3-0 none needed a Game 7 before the Flyers’ win. There have been 167 leads of 3-0, with only 1.8 percent of teams blowing them.

Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who rallied against the New York Yankees, have done it in baseball history. No NBA team has pulled off the feat.

The Sharks will be facing a great deal of pressure when the puck drops in San Jose on Thursday night. The Sharks already carry the baggage of several years of disappointment and underachievement in the playoffs, and the weight of possibly suffering the worst of collapses certainly won’t help heavily criticized stars Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

Throw in the fact that road teams are 37-32 in these playoffs, and the tide turns again in the favor of the title-filled Red Wings.

“I don’t know what it is, but we’re very, very calm in the dressing room before overtime,” Thornton said earlier in the series. “We know we’ve got a lot of guys in this room who are capable of ending the game, and I think that gives us a calmness, a confidence that we’re going to get it done.”

Road teams are 13-7 in overtime in this year’s playoffs and have won five straight. Three of the 11 completed series ended in overtime, including two in Game 7. Both of those were won by the home teams _ Vancouver and Boston in the first round. San Jose took out Los Angeles on the road in overtime of Game 6 on a goal by Thornton.

There has been an overtime game on 17 of the 28 playoff dates, including a stretch of nine straight days and 15 of 16.

“You’re seeing overtimes because there’s a lot more parity. Teams are a lot more closer,” said Nashville coach Barry Trotz, whose team lost to Vancouver in the second round. “For the most part, we were all four, five points between anywhere from five through four through eight. There’s not much separation and it’s tighter checking, goaltenders step up, therefore you’re running into a lot of overtime games.

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