The formats of professional sports playoffs in North America are informed as much by the wisdom of Glinda the Good Witch as they are by any original thoughts by Bud Selig, Roger Goodell, David Stern or Gary Bettman. In other words, there isn't supposed to be any place like home. Unless, of course, you're the Vancouver Canucks. In that case, familiar surroundings don't seem to be doing much good.
Entering the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Canucks had accrued more regular-season points than every other team. Even without concussed goalscorer Daniel Sedin, they managed to finish out the season by winning of eight of nine to secure the Presidents' Trophy. For the second straight year, Vancouver began the playoffs at home. More importantly, they finished the playoffs at home for the second straight season. What more could a team want? Apparently, a lot.
After losing Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals at home to the Boston Bruins, 4-0, the area around Rogers Arena erupted in riots. On the ice, the first home games of the Canucks' 2012 bid for the Cup didn't go much differently. Just as they had in Game 7 last year, Vancouver surrendered four goals to the Los Angeles Kings in games 1 and 2 (scoring only a combined three) of the opening round in 2012, falling into an 0-2 hole in the best-of-seven affair. Another loss to the Kings in Game 3 would relegate the Canucks' eventual Game 4 win to cosmetic status in a dispiriting five-game dismantling by the last team to squeak into the postseason from the Western Conference.
On the bright side, there was no riot.
Of the nine previous times that a No. 8 seed has dispatched a No. 1 in the NHL playoffs (since a format change away from Division-based playoffs), no such series lasted fewer than six games. Similarly in the NBA, such upsets were hotly contested, even if some of the series were best-of-five sets. It took the No. 8 New York Knicks a memorable buzzer beater by Allan Houston in the winner-take-all Game 5 of their opening round encounter during the 1999 NBA playoffs to knock off the No. 1 Miami Heat. Likewise, an overtime session was needed in yet another decisive Game 5 before Denver Nuggets center Dikembe Mutumbo could clutch that basketball in celebration on the floor at Key Arena.
Not only did the Kings dump the Canucks unceremoniously from the postseason, but they did so with historic ease. Does this say more about the hot team from L.A. or the club from Vancouver that has twice failed to convert regular-season dominance into playoff glory?
From the shock provided when the San Jose Sharks stunned the Detroit Red Wings to that iconic image of Mutumbo in 1994, right through Jarret Stoll's OT winner to keep the Kings skating while the Canucks went home, here are all the NBA and NHL playoff series when a No. 8 seed knocked off a top-seeded squad. Which remains the most improbable? The most exciting?