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How Bad is Losing Your First Three Games, Really?

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Looking at recent teams which have opened the year with three-game losing streaks.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

OK, so an 0-3 start is worrisome, and the Los Angeles Kings have looked pretty awful in their three season-opening defeats. Is it a kiss of death? I dug into the question by looking up every team which has started the year with three losses since the lockout.


Teams to Lose First Three Games: 2005-15

TEAM YEAR W L OL PTS GOALS GOAL DIFF MADE PLAYOFFS?
STL 2005-06 0 3 0 0 10 -6 NO
TOR 2005-06 0 1 2 2 11 -3 NO
PIT 2005-06 0 1 2 2 9 -6 NO
NYI 2006-07 0 3 0 0 5 -7 YES
NSH 2006-07 0 3 0 0 12 -5 YES
CAR 2006-07 0 2 1 1 4 -8 NO
STL 2006-07 0 2 1 1 5 -6 NO
CGY 2007-08 0 2 1 1 7 -4 YES
ATL 2007-08 0 3 0 0 4 -7 NO
FLA 2007-08 0 3 0 0 4 -7 NO
ANA 2008-09 0 3 0 0 6 -8 YES
CHI 2008-09 0 2 1 1 6 -5 YES
PHI 2008-09 0 2 1 1 8 -4 YES
TBL 2008-09 0 2 1 1 5 -3 NO
COL 2008-09 0 3 0 0 10 -3 NO
VAN 2009-10 0 3 0 0 6 -7 YES
TOR 2009-10 0 2 1 1 8 -4 NO
TBL 2009-10 0 1 2 2 7 -5 NO
NYI 2009-10 0 0 3 3 8 -3 NO
ANA 2010-11 0 3 0 0 2 -11 YES
NJD 2010-11 0 2 1 1 6 -8 NO
OTT 2010-11 0 2 1 1 4 -6 NO
WPG 2011-12 0 3 0 0 5 -8 YES
NYR 2011-12 0 1 2 2 5 -4 YES
CAR 2011-12 0 2 1 1 6 -7 NO
CBJ 2011-12 0 3 0 0 6 -4 NO
WSH 2012-13 0 3 0 0 6 -8 YES
LAK 2012-13 0 2 1 1 4 -6 YES
PHI 2012-13 0 3 0 0 3 -8 NO
CGY 2012-13 0 2 1 1 7 -5 NO
PHI 2013-14 0 3 0 0 3 -6 YES
MIN 2013-14 0 1 2 2 7 -3 YES
BUF 2013-14 0 3 0 0 2 -5 NO
NJD 2013-14 0 1 2 2 7 -5 NO
BUF 2014-15 0 3 0 0 4 -10 NO
PHI 2014-15 0 2 1 1 8 -4 NO
EDM 2014-15 0 2 1 1 7 -9 NO
FLA 2014-15 0 2 1 1 3 -6 NO
CAR 2014-15 0 2 1 1 9 -4 NO


Of the 39 teams to start the season 0-3, 14 made the playoffs. That's not a great success rate (36%), but it's also not a kiss of death.

LA has only started one season with three losses since the lockout: 2012-13. They staggered to a 3-5-2 start, but after allowing a game-winner to Detroit with 5 seconds left, they won seven of their next eight and eventually qualified for the playoffs. The picture at the top of this article is from their second-round victory over San Jose. All is not lost!

Some facts I found interesting about the above table:

  • The only team with a worse goal differential in their first three games than LA's -10: Anaheim in 2010-11, who allowed 13 goals and only scored two on a difficult three-game Central Division road trip to start the year. They also gave up 145 shots on goal in those three games, which is absurd. They made the playoffs.
  • Last season, all five teams who lost their first three games missed the playoffs. That's not encouraging, though you can argue that none of those five teams was expected to be a contender.
  • A few of these teams have gone on to resounding regular season success; the New York Rangers even finished in first in the Eastern Conference in 2011-12. Of course, there are more lottery winners than first-place squads, but both extremes are in play.
  • Weirdly, the teams who started with zero points and three regulation losses (0-3-0) had a 50% success rate (8 of 16) in making the playoffs.
  • None of these teams won the Stanley Cup, or even made the Stanley Cup Final. There are conference finalists to be found here, though, including the aforementioned 2012-13 Kings.

This year, a whopping nine teams lost their three games, so it stands to reason that at least a couple will probably grab playoff spots. In addition to LA, Edmonton, Boston, Columbus, Carolina, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh got off to an 0-3-0 start, while Toronto and Anaheim went 0-2-1 in their first three. Who from that group can recover? Stay tuned! (Don't bet on the Devils.)

(all numbers courtesy of Hockey Reference)