So in digging through my archives, I set out to try to figure out if there is a connection between the 1987 Flyers that lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Edmonton Oilers juggernaut in seven games, and the Flyers team that will face off against Chicago on Saturday night. Are those teams and this group at all similar? Is there anything tying together their trips through the playoffs?
In a word, no.
First of all, it’s incredibly odious to compare teams from different eras. Don’t believe me? Then go watch the HBO documentary on the Broad Street Bullies or are a classic hockey game from a decade ago for comparisons sake. What you will find is that today’s game is so much faster. It’s almost like watching Borg and McEnroe play tennis with wood rackets compared to Federer and Nadal with modern equipment.
Even though the game is different, the drama has not changed a bit. In 1987, the Flyers dropped the opening two games to Edmonton and were trailing 3-0 in Game 3 at the Spectrum before winning three of the next four games to force Game 7. Rookie Ron Hextall, the losing goalie, won the Conn Smythe Trophy, and was suspended for the first eight games of the following season for teeing off on Kent Nilsson as if he were a Titleist and his goalie stick were a 3-wood.
The game moves too fast now, but it would be difficult to draw any comparisons with the Oilers team that won the Cup. There were seven future Hall-of-Famers on the Oilers that season, including Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.
Seven Hall of Famers on one team is an anachronism from the days when there was no such thing as a salary cap, so it’s wise to leave it in the past.
Which is probably a good idea considering the way guys like wrote off the Flyers at the end of the regular season. For instance, on this very site I reasoned that it might not be a bad idea for the Flyers to fall flat on their faces and regroup during the off-season. Playoffs?
Check it out:
Is it simply a matter of trimming some payroll and adding some different players? Were the injuries too much to bear? Is the chemistry all wrong? How about all of the above?
Would a collapse that results in the Flyers not making the playoffs be the best tonic for the long run?
We’ll find out soon enough.
Guess what? Bad idea. Perhaps it shows that the Flyers were a team constructed for May and not October. After all, Chris Pronger has a certain knack for getting to the Stanley Cup Final, and the injured masses have a way of healing really quickly when no one would fault them for hanging it up for the season. That stuff definitely defines the character of the guys on the team.
Or maybe it says something about a sport when three of the four times a team rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to win came in the NHL. In hockey, anything can happen and the regular season is pretty much meaningless. Just look at how the Flyers, as the No. 7 seed, got to the finals. They knocked off the No. 2 seed in five games, rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Bruins, and then hosted the conference finals against the lowest-seeded team in the tournament.
“We haven’t done anything conventional all year,” captain Mike Richards said. “We’ve gone against the grain the whole way.”
But does that add up to the Flyers hoisting the Cup in a week?
That’s the difficult question. The law of averages and logic has to catch up sooner or later… right? After all, the Blackhawks went through the top seed in the West to get to the finals and have won eight of their last nine games. Moreover, the Blackhawks haven’t lost back-to-back games since the end of March.
Are the trends going to fall apart in the Stanley Cup Final?
Let’s just say something that has not occurred since the Kennedy Administration will go down at the Wachovia Center next week.
Sorry, I’m going with the Blackhawks in six games. Why start betting on the Flyers now?