The Flyers first series of the 2020/21 season was a successful one. Kicking off their campaign against their rivals to the west, the Flyers bested Pittsburgh in both contests. Philly defeated Pittsburgh by scores of 6-3 and 5-2. There’s no better way to start a season, and a shortened one at that. With games looming against the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins next week, the Flyers put themselves in a solid position to start the year. The quick start out of the gates is always a positive. This is also the 16th time in franchise history that the Philadelphia Flyers started the year 2-0.
With many dubbing this team as one to come out of the East Division come playoff time, it begs the question: how did the Flyers fare in those past seasons where they won their first two contests? To put it simply, the results are scattered. You have a season where they won the Stanley Cup in 1973/74. You also have a season where they missed the playoffs completely in 1993/94. First round exits, conference final appearances, they’ve experienced everything a team can in the playoffs after starting a season 2-0. The key here is to look at the past outcomes, and which happened with more frequency.
Stanley Cup Victories
The best-case scenario would be if the 2020/21 Flyers mimicked the path of the 1973/74 Flyers. Their first Stanley Cup came off the heels of a 2-0 start, as well as winning their first four games of the season. The Flyers went 50-16-12 that year and defeated the Boston Bruins to win their first Stanley Cup. It was their seventh season as an NHL franchise. While the tied for the unlikeliest of occurrences, it’s worth mentioning considering the respect the Flyers have garnered this season for having a deep group of forwards, solid trio of young defenseman, and the best young goalie in the NHL.
Stanley Cup Losses
After starting a season 2-0, the Flyers have thrice made it to the Stanley Cup Finals and lost. The first occurrence was 1976 when the Flyers were defeated by Montreal. 11 years later, the Flyers made it back only to be defeated by the Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers. The most recent was back in 2010 when the Flyers defied all odds and snuck into the playoffs, only to fall to Chicago in the Stanley Cup Finals.
In 1975/76, the Flyers won their first four contests of the season. They outdid that performance during the 1986/87 season, claiming victory in their first six games of the season. Philadelphia only won their first three contests of the season back in 2009/10. Losing the Stanley Cup is the third likeliest option, with the Flyers having made it to the Cup Finals and losing 20% of the times they’ve started the season 2-0.
Third Round/Conference Final Exits
Two times in team history, the Philadelphia Flyers have reached the third round of the playoffs and fallen after starting the season 2-0. The first occurrence was 1977/78 when the Flyers were ousted in the semi-finals by the Boston Bruins. The second time it happened was 11 years later when the Montreal Canadiens showed Philly the door in the Conference Finals. Both times, the Flyers started the year on a four-game win streak.
Happening twice in the team’s history, this type of outcome is the third unlikeliest option. It would be an improvement from last season after being bounced by the Islanders in the second round.
Second Round Exits
The Flyers have been ousted in the second round four times in franchise history after starting a season 2-0. In 1981 they were beaten by the Calgary Flames in the Quarterfinals. 15 years later in 1996, the Florida Panthers beat them in the second round. 16 years after that in 2012, the Flyers fell to the New Jersey Devils in the Conference Semifinals. Most recently, the Flyers were escorted from the playoffs courtesy of the New York Islanders last season.
Philadelphia has been defeated in the second round of the playoffs four times after starting the season 2-0. That’s tied for the likeliest outcome to a 2-0 start with the following…
First Round Exits
Nobody likes to hear about these. For the longest time the Flyers made it into the playoffs only to be handled and disposed of in the first round. The first time it happened after starting 2-0 was back in 1983 when the Rangers beat them in the first round. One year later it happened again, this time with the Capitals taking care of the Flyers. In 1998, the Philadelphia Flyers made it into the playoffs after a 2-0 start only to fall victim to the Buffalo Sabres. Then again, the Flyers made it into the playoffs only to lose to the Toronto Maple Leafs a year later in 1999.
The Dave Hakstol era still rings loudly when mentioning first round exits. A team that was ill-prepared to play against the “big boys” but gave a glimmer of hope when needed. While those teams may not have belonged in the playoffs, the same can’t always be said for the teams mentioned above.
Didn’t Make the Dance
One time in Flyers history, a team started the season winning their first two games and did not make the playoffs. The Flyers started out the 1993/94 season beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in their opener, then defeating the Hartford Whalers 5-2 in game two. The Flyers started that season out relatively hot, winning eight of their first 10 and 11 of their first 15. Everything seemed to go downhill from there, as they failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year. That’s all we really need to know about that.
Draw your own conclusion from these past performances. This isn’t meant to try and predict how this season will unfold, but to shed some light on how, really, anything can happen. There are 54 games remaining and in that span, a lot can happen. Enjoy the highs. This season will be a fun one. The Philadelphia Flyers are good, and we should enjoy it.
Photo Credit – Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire