The Wait Is Great: How More Rest Helps The Underdog

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 22: Kimmo Timonen #44 and Arron Asham #45 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrate after defeating the New Jersey Devils by the score of 3-0 to win in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and advance to the next round of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Prudential Center at on April 22, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Flyers won their series against the Devils on Thursday.  It's now Monday, and the world is a much different place than it was since the Flyers last played.  Tim Tebow has been drafted, Sarah Palin has cursed a second Philadelphia team with her presence, and you've learned that Bret Michaels' medical situation is significantly more dire than the plethora of STDs everyone already knew about.

Not only are the Flyers now on their fourth straight day off, they still don't know for sure who they play next.  And there's about a 93.75% chance that the team the Flyers will play in the next round is still playing.

This is a good thing.  Whomever the Flyers play in the next round will be the favorite based on seeding, but the Flyers will have significantly more rest.

How good is this, you ask? This scenario, in which the underdog played fewer games in the previous round than did the favorite, has previously occurred 40 times in the Stanley Cup playoffs since #1-8 seeding began in 1994.  With this advantage in hand, the underdog has won 17 of these 40 series, which is good for 42.5%. In the 185 other series between 1994 and 2009, the underdog won 64 times, good for a win percentage of just 34.5%

In short, rest helps.

The one previous time the Flyers found themselves in this situation was in 1997, when the #3 Flyers won their first round over the Penguins in five games, then faced the #2 Sabres, who had needed seven games to beat the Senators, in the second round.  As you should know, 1997 was a fairly good playoff year in Flyerland, and the Flyers upset the Sabres in five on their way to an eventual Stanley Cup Finals appearance.

After the jump, a table of the previous forty series in which the underdog played fewer games in its previous series, and how it shook out.

Year Round Seed Favorite Games In Previous Series Seed Underdog Games In Previous Series Upset?
 2010   Conf. Semis  #?   ? 6 or 7  #7   Flyers 5 ?
 2009   Conf. Semis  #2   Capitals 7  #4   Penguins 6 Yes
 2009   Conf. Finals  #2   Red Wings 7  #4   Blackhawks 6 No
 2009   SC Finals  #2   Red Wings 5  #4   Penguins 4 Yes
 2008   Conf. Semis  #2   Sharks 7  #5   Stars 6 Yes
 2008   SC Finals  #1   Red Wings 6  #2   Penguins 5 No
 2007   Conf. Semis  #1   Sabres 5  #6   Rangers 4 No
 2007   Conf. Semis  #2   Devils 6  #4   Senators 5 Yes
 2007   Conf. Semis  #1   Red Wings 6  #5   Sharks 5 No
 2007   Conf. Finals  #1   Sabres 6  #4   Senators 5 Yes
 2007   Conf. Finals  #1   Red Wings 6  #2   Ducks 5 Yes
 2007   SC Finals  #2   Ducks 6  #4   Senators 5 No
 2006   Conf. Semis  #2   Hurricanes 6  #3   Devils 4 No
 2006   Conf. Semis  #6   Ducks 7  #7   Avalanche 5 No
 2006   SC Finals  #2   Hurricanes 7  #8   Oilers 5 No
 2004   SC Finals  #1   Lightning 7  #6   Flames 6 No
 2003   Conf. Semis  #1   Stars 6  #7   Ducks 4 Yes
 2003   Conf. Semis  #6   Wild 7  #7   Ducks 6 Yes
 2003   Conf. Finals  #1   Senators 6  #2   Devils 5 Yes
 2003   SC Finals  #2   Devils 7  #7   Ducks 4 No
 2002   Conf. Semis  #4   Maple Leafs 7  #7   Senators 5 No
 2002   Conf. Semis  #4   Blues 5  #1   Red Wings 6 No
 2002   Conf. Semis  #2   Avalanche 7  #3   Sharks 5 No
 2002   SC Finals  #3   Hurricanes 6  #1   Red Wings 7 No
 2001   Conf. Semis  #1   Devils 6  #7   Maple Leafs 4 No
 2001   Conf. Finals  #1   Avalanche 7  #4   Blues 4 No
 2000   Conf. Semis  #3   Maple Leafs 6  #4   Devils 4 Yes
 2000   Conf. Semis  #3   Avalanche 5  #4   Red Wings 4 No
 1999   Conf. Semis  #6   Bruins 6  #7   Sabres 4 Yes
 1999   Conf. Semis  #2   Avalanche 6  #3   Red Wings 4 No
 1999   SC Finals  #1   Stars 7  #7   Sabres 5 No
 1998   Conf. Finals  #4   Capitals 5  #6   Sabres 4 No
 1998   Conf. Semis  #3   Red Wings 6  #4   Blues 4 No
 1997   Conf. Semis  #2   Sabres 7  #3   Flyers 5 Yes
 1997   Conf. Finals  #1   Avalanche 5  #3   Red Wings 4 Yes
 1996   Conf. Semis  #1   Flyers 6  #4   Panthers 5 Yes
 1996   Conf. Semis  #2   Avalanche 6  #3   Blackhawks 4 No
 1996   Conf. Semis  #1   Red Wings 7  #2   Avalanche 6 Yes
 1995   Conf. Semis  #3   Penguins 7  #5   Devils 5 Yes
 1994   Conf. Finals  #3   Maple Leafs 7  #7   Canucks 5 Yes
 1994   SC Finals  #1   Rangers 7  #7   Canucks 5 No
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